Interest in education programs holding steady at Chattanooga community colleges

Anika Chaturvedi, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
·3 min read

Apr. 11—Disruptions to traditional teaching methods have been an adjustment for schools and students, but enrollment in introductory education courses at the area's community colleges has held fairly steady through the pandemic.

At Chattanooga State Community College, Foundations of Education is the first course students take when they express interest in teaching.

Christine Conn, director of education programs at Chattanooga State, said enrollment in sections of that course hasn't dropped significantly over the last few years. When the class went virtual, she was surprised attendance improved, she said.

"In the past, if I had a course on ground, I might have students who were parents who couldn't come in if their kids were sick, or if they had child care issues, or if their car broke down, and when it's virtual — which is not strictly online, they show up in-person with me online through Zoom at a given time — it's easier for them to do that from home right now, which is really interesting," she said.

Conn said students have mixed thoughts about learning virtually, but that the uptick in attendance is a silver lining.

"They miss that interaction of the other students personally in a room with me, and there's certainly things that I'm limited to in terms of the way I present material," she said. "It's a little bit different because I'm doing it virtually, but they are coming and it's easier for them, so if they roll out of bed and they're not feeling well they can sit in front of their computer and come to my class."

At Cleveland State Community College, students in the education program or early childhood program students who plan to transfer to a four-year school take the Introduction to Teaching course.

Suzanne Wood, coordinator for early childhood education at Cleveland State, said enrollment has ups and downs, but the pandemic has not had a major impact on it in the education and early childhood education programs.

"Knowing what we teach and how many sections we teach, it did go down during the pandemic because people were affected by the pandemic at home even," she said. "It wasn't just because they didn't want to take online coursework, they, too, had sick family members or didn't want to get out if they wanted to take a land class, because we still offered, not in early childhood or education, but if they needed to take general education classes, those were still being offered at Cleveland State face-to-face."

Observations and field work changed due to school closures and pandemic restrictions, but instructors at both schools are hopeful more face-to-face instruction is on the horizon.

"They typically do substantial hours in classrooms doing observations and we have had to curtail that, and they miss it and they know that if they'd taken this course two years ago that would have been a huge part of what they're doing," Conn said. "But we really haven't been able to do that, and moving forward we will be able to again."

Wood is one of two full-time instructors for the early childhood program, and they both have taught virtually since last March. While the education course is offered online, she said she prefers teaching early childhood classes face to face.

"In early childhood it's a very hands-on field and you learn through hands-on activities, so I think as the pandemic allows us, we will go back to more face-to-face or hybrid [learning]," Wood said.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.