From professional training to new online courses, Palomar’s Academic Technology team engineered a major transition mid-semester to keep students in class and moving forward.

SAN MARCOS — When it became clear that all classes at Palomar College would be transitioned to a remote-learning format for the rest of the semester, the monumental task of getting hundreds of new classes online fell to a small team of specialists.

Overnight, the Academic Technology Resource Center (ATRC) began training faculty and staff on a variety of skills and technology platforms, from WordPress to Canvas, the “learning management system” through which instruction is now being delivered.

In addition to adding some 300 courses to the Canvas system, the ATRC worked closely with the college’s Professional Development Office to train faculty and staff in preparation for the new remote learning environment.

Together, the transition team worked virtually nonstop for two weeks to ensure that every faculty member was ready to begin teaching remotely when the semester resumed after spring break on March 30.

“In all, we trained about 600 faculty members during the first three weeks of the COVID-19 crisis,” recalled Najib Manea, Palomar’s Manager of Academic Technology. “At some point, we were doing more than 30 sessions weekly—almost 10 times what we used to offer.”

Professional Development Coordinator Kelly Falcone said the college hosted 276 workshops between March 12 and April 30—nearly three times as many as the same period in 2019.

“Although the transition has been challenging for many of our employees, I have been so impressed and encouraged by their resiliency and eagerness to learn,” said Falcone. “Taking into consideration all of the ways our employees can continue to learn, we have seen a 158 percent increase in the number of completed trainings by our employees.”

The numbers reflect the teamwork and dedication that it took to make the transition.

For example, Manea explained that one workshop, “Course Delivery During COVID-19,” was held 55 times over a two-week period.

Today, he said, ongoing training is focused on how to use Canvas for grading and class discussion; how to organize a course online; and how to create compelling PowerPoint presentations.

“We activated every single person in the ATRC and used all of our resources to get this done,” said Manea. “We knew we were going to be a focal point for the transition, and all our staff worked really hard. Everyone deserves credit, not only one individual.”

He added that, like almost everyone else employed by the college, the ATRC team is working from home, and the help desk continues to be busy.

“It has elevated the way we do things, and activated a lot of resources that will serve our students well. We are ready for the long-term,” said Manea. “Now we are at the point where we’re back to normal—the new, online normal.”