Dr. Jack Daniels II and Madison College Plan for 2020-2021
Schedule Dancing with COVID-19
|Dr. Jack Daniels III, the president of Madison College, is
proud of his staff’s response to the COVID-19 era
There were two things that the staff had to deal with, student ability to make the transition and having the access to do so. Many students were just used to — and
dependent on — face-to-face instruction.
“There are different learning styles,” Daniels said. “But if you look primarily at individuals who are having difficulty in that transition to remote, a lot of those are
people of color. And part of the issue that folks are having is that they have never done it before. Yet they tried and you have to understand that their learning has
been what their comfort is with face-to-face.”
The other issue was the digital divide, made worse by COVID-19. While many students access the internet through their smart phones, smart phones are inadequate
for full participating in a virtual classroom.
“Many of our students, especially folks of color and those in poverty, do not have a computer, do not have a hot spot,” Daniels said. “What we did at the start of the
COVID-19 was to loan computers out. I think there are 700 odd computers out there plus we provided broadband hot spot access. That’s especially important,
especially in some of our rural areas to the north where their broadband is non-existent almost. We had to make sure that they had access. We’ve learned about
that. You’re learning at the same time how to engage students effectively in a remote type of environment. And that’s been useful for us.”
And of course the faculty had to adapt, with creativity, in order to keep the students engaged in their coursework.
“I know you have to teach differently,” Daniels said about online instruction. “And then where are your chat rooms? What are you using in terms of what we use in
Blackboard, the platform? How do you best use that? How do provide simulation on line so that students understand it? Let’s take our transportation programs or
our programs in auto, for example. One of our faculty members created a lab in his home so that when he was shooting remotely from there, he could show hands
on so that folks could see what was happening with an engine for example. That’s an example of the types of things that our faculty has really stepped up to do in
terms of this remote instruction. It spurs a lot creativity.”
This summer, most of Madison College’s classes have been online. And for the fall, Daniels and his staff have been doing a type of scheduling dance with COVID-19
with COVID-19 in the lead and the college adjusting to whatever direction COVID-19 takes.
“We’re planning to open Madison College on time this fall,” Daniels emphasized. “I say that’s the plan. I’m not trying to be facetious about it. But just look across the
country. There are many areas that are spiking right now. You’ve got Florida, Arizona, and California. States are making adjustments to their plans. A lot of it
depends on where we are going to be. Our city of Madison and Dane County folk are not moving to Level Three. They want to spend some more time in Level Two to
understand a little more and get some better data about what is happening. But there are spikes that happen all along. We’ve got spikes up in La Crosse. We have
spikes in other areas of the state. And so a lot of this is dependent on where we are from a health perspective. But it is our intention that we will open August 31.”
And what is of utmost importance to Daniels and his staff is the health and safety of their students. And in its current phase, COVID-19 is impacting younger people,
Madison College’s prime target population.
“The population being impacted by COVID-19 is getting younger,” Daniels observed. “What do you expect when you open up beaches and you allow people to go into
movie theaters earlier than expected? There are a number of things that have caused this like mass gatherings. That’s problematic. If you look at the pictures at
Daytona Beach or outside Jacksonville perhaps three weeks ago. It’s a crowd. You have to expect that something is going to happen. Everyone is not immune. And
it is affecting many more of the young population now.”
When Madison College opens on August 31, it won’t be business as normal. The college has been developing an array of instructional models to ensure that the
needs of students and their future employers are met while also ensuring their health and safety.
“Understand when we are coming back, we’re not coming back fully face-to-face,” Daniels emphasized. “The majority of the courses are going to stay online. We’re
still going to have the hybrid. There will be some that won’t have to be face-to-face. And our intent is to finish all face-to-face instruction by Thanksgiving and then
the class can continue remotely. That’s especially true for hybrid classes. We are expecting that there will be a big spike sometime near the end of October or first
of November. We’re trying to prepare students for that. In the hybrid classes, they aren’t going to be the types of classes that we’ve had before in terms of the
number. But what we will have are those classes that we have considered can be done, get all of the theory out of the way and then actually deal with hands-on
portions. We also have to be concerned about the clinicals for our health areas because all of those students have to have clinicals especially in nursing. Our folks
are working with our providers around our district to make sure that we have clinical sites and that they are safe and our students can work in them.”
Even the face-to-face instruction will be different.
“You can take a classroom where you had 30 students in it and now you can fit 20-22 students in that classroom,” Daniels said. “We are looking at all of that. But it
also depends on how we schedule our classes. If in fact we have more students whom we can identify who will be coming and we need to open up another
section, then we open up another section depending on the demand we would get. But then if you open up another section, you have to look at the timing of it and
where you would place that within the schedule. Those are things that all of our academic folks are working on.”
With all of the variables that the Madison College staff has to consider when making decisions, it has to remain aware that a decision over there impacts a decision
over here. Decisions can’t be made in a vacuum.
“We’re monitoring the science and the health indicators every day,” Daniels said. “We have several teams that are working not just from an instruction standpoint,
but also on health and safety. What are the protocols going to be? Any time you make a decision, there are going to be some dominos. If you make a decision — I
will use athletics — are we going to have athletics in the fall? I don’t know yet. But I do know that if I talk with athletics, I have to talk about people who have to be
conditioned. That means the fitness center has to be open. If the fitness center is there, and I have people being conditioned, that means I need locker rooms. It is
not just one simple thing that you can say, ‘We’re going to have this.’ What are the other elements that will be impacted by the virtue of a decision to do something?”
What has helped with student success at Madison College has been its student support services that are available at almost all Madison College locations. The
staff are still there to give students support and guidance in this virtual environment.
“Since the middle of May, our student services have been really remote,” Daniels said. “That’s advising. That’s counseling and financial aid. We reach out to
students or students contact us. We have a full array of support that is happening online. And we’re making sure students know about that. When we start in the fall,
I can’t tell you 100 percent of the folks are going to be back. What we’ve found is that some of our activities have to be done remotely. What may happen is that as
we open to the public a little bit more is we are rotating staff in and out, especially student services staff so that any students who are at the college will have
access to student services. But we have refined and are refining our remote access to services.”
Daniels listens to Dr. Fauci and the guidelines and projections he makes for the future. And so, Daniels emphasized that the basic plan that is put in place for the fall
semester will also be followed next spring.
“I don’t expect to have a vaccine any time soon,” Daniels said. “There is no magical vaccine that is going to happen. It’s all guess work. But I am assuming
because Dr. Fauci is very much in tune and I have heard other scientists say there is a good possibility it will be spring. I just hope it does. The other thing that we
have to be prepared for is we’ve seen what COVID-19 has done. Believe me, there are going to be more COVIDs. And how do we respond to it?”
As Dr. Jack Daniels III and other educational leaders have realized is that even with a vaccine for COVID-19, our world has entered a new era. There was SARS
2002 and MERS in 2012. There was the Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2014-2016. And just recently, a case of the bubonic plague was reported in Colorado. As the
world becomes more globalized, populations keep rising and animal habitats converted to human use, it’s not a matter of if, but rather when the next outbreak will
occur. Madison College will be ready.
By Jonathan Gramling
IAlong with every other institution in Dane County and Wisconsin, Madison College closed its doors
on March 15 eliminating access to Madison College buildings to the public. As a technical college
with expertise across the educational spectrum at its disposal, Madison College adapted quickly to
becoming a remote campus. And Dr. Jack Daniels III, the president of Madison College, is proud of
his staff’s response to the COVID-19 era.
“Often times we’re told what we can’t do with the pandemic,” Daniels said. “Now we’ve found what
we can do. We have a lot of folks who feel that way. We have always been one of the two-year
leaders in remote. But the extent that we had to do it, we learned that we can do that. But we also
learned that there are some disparities out there, disparities in terms of the technology and people’s
access to the technology as well as their comfort with learning. We’ve learned that we have to be
able to address those needs and address the access, which is very important.”