| Danielle Eaton
HOLYOKE – Holyoke Community College (HCC) is working to provide students flexibility with their start or return to college in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Director of Admissions at HCC, Mark Hudgik, said the college understood early on that the fall semester would look very different for new and returning students. He said the college had been in contact with students throughout the summer, engaging with their willingness and ability to return. “We understood pretty early that this was not going to be a typical fall for a lot of students,” he said. “The more we spoke with them, the more they were confirming what we thought.”
He explained that students expressed that their “employment situations, childcare situations [and] family commitments” would not allow for them to start classes on Sept. 8. While some students were able to begin classes on Sept. 8, around the time other colleges in the area also began classes, HCC also offered students two other flexible start dates: Sept. 28 and Oct. 28.
Instead of the traditional 14-week semester, students who begin classes on Sept. 28 will have just 12 weeks of classes, while students who begin on Oct. 28 will attend just seven weeks of classes. All classes, according to a press release from HCC, will conclude by Dec. 16.
Students taking courses in accounting, anthropology, biology, business administration, career readiness, communication, education, economics, English, health, math, psychology, sociology and sustainability have the option of utilizing the flexible start dates being offered.
Hudgik said they’d already seen some students utilize the flexible start dates, and had inquired about starting at a later date. “We did see a lot of students inquiring about them, coming in and signing up. [They’re] still registering as we speak,” he said.
He said one significant benefit to the flexible start dates was that students who wanted to start at HCC didn’t need to know when they’d start. He said, “[They] didn’t need to know when they needed to start, they just had to apply and advisors worked with them,” he explained.
He said this is not the first time in HCC’s history that the college has worked with students who have been unable to begin the semester at the traditional start date. “We’ve offered flexible dates in the past, when they had a little more uncertainty in their lives,” he said.
However, he said based on student response, HCC is considering making the flexible start dates a permanent fixture moving forward. Hudgik said, “We recognized for a while, the traditional 16-week semester doesn’t work for a lot of students because of life.” He said that HCC had realized they “need to be more flexible in general,” and “COVID[-19] accelerated this.”
While the majority of courses will be hosted remotely, courses are also being offered with blended remote and blended face to face options. Blended remote offers students the chance to complete work from home with classes held on video platforms like Zoom. Blended face to face instruction offers students the opportunity to complete work and attend classes both from their home and on campus. However, only students with specific courses of study are being offered blended face to face options. Such courses include culinary arts, nursing, radiologic technology, veterinary technician and medical assistance courses.
Hudgik said the college was still deciding whether or not they’d continue the remote-learning model into the spring. “We’re still evaluating. We’ll know more in the coming weeks, our goal is to have students notified as early as possible so they can plan for whatever,” he said.
He added that while remote learning was “a very different way of doing college,” HCC students would still be able to take advantage of the resources on campus. “We encourage students who are ready to start, or want to continue, that they can feel free to take advantage of the resources on campus,” he said. “Just contact us, we’ll walk them through that.”
Hudgik also emphasized that HCC was “working really hard to be responsible to students’ questions or concerns.” Students who may have questions, concerns or want to apply to HCC can email the college at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the live chat function on HCC’s website (https://www.hcc.edu), which is typically available from 8 a.m. until around 10 p.m. most days.