newberry virtual class

Virtual Classroom Shows Promise at PTC Newberry Campus

May 16, 2017

When it became virtually impossible for an instructor to be in two places at once, Piedmont Technical College’s Newberry County Campus made the virtual possible.

PTC launched a pilot program using laptop cameras and the latest technology to create a virtual classroom for a group of dual enrollment students in Newberry. Instructor Tory Willis-Miller said the class went remarkably well.

“They were a good bunch of students,” she said. “They really got into it. I was proud of them.”

Necessity became the mother of invention when Piedmont Tech found itself without an instructor for a government class in Newberry.

“There was no way for me to get to Newberry in time after teaching my first class of the day,” said Willis-Miller, who is based at Piedmont Tech’s Lex Walters Campus-Greenwood and typically teaches the government classes.

She consulted with Lynn Mack, dean of PTC’s instructional and grant development. They decided to use the school’s Brightspace D2L online learning management system.

“It just kind of took off from there,” Willis-Miller said.

Brightspace D2L is used by Piedmont Tech students taking online courses. According to Janean Reish, director of dual enrollment and associate dean at the Laurens County Center for Advanced Manufacturing, some classroom-based courses also supplement instruction with materials distributed through Brightspace D2L.

Every Monday and Wednesday from 10:00-11:15 a.m., Willis-Miller would sit in her office in Greenwood while the class – a dozen local high school students participating in the dual enrollment program – would gather with laptops in a Newberry campus classroom. Using the Brightspace D2L system, students and teacher could see each other on their computer screens. Willis-Miller could write on a virtual whiteboard and use PowerPoint while teaching, and students could type questions and/or answers in real time online.

“The kids loved it,” Willis-Miller said, pointing out that the virtual classroom more closely mirrored the students’ out-of-school environment. “They were sitting in front of their computers with their headphones on. It’s a new age.”

Interestingly, she said, students were more involved as a whole and she was able to connect with them better than in a large classroom environment.

“Nobody was hiding in the back of the class,” Willis-Miller said. “With the laptops and cameras, everybody was on the front row.”

One student was able to continue attending classes even while on a family vacation. Reish sees the potential in students being able to keep up with their classes when they’re home sick or otherwise unable to make it to the classroom.

While some PTC instructors had experimented with video lectures in the past, Reish said that an entirely virtual course such as Willis-Miller’s government class was a first.

“We’re probably going to expand it,” Reish said. “We’re gradually going to start plugging it into our lineup of dual enrollment classes. It’s not going to totally replace the face-to-face, instructor-classroom experience, but it will give us a lot more flexibility when it comes to meeting locations and instructor availability.”

Piedmont Tech’s dual enrollment program allows students to earn college credit while they are still in high school. To learn more, visit www.ptc.edu/dualenrollment or contact coordinator Regina Washington at (864) 941-8352, washington.r@ptc.edu.

More than 700 credit students and numerous continuing education students attend Piedmont Tech’s Newberry County Campus. For information, visit www.ptc.edu/newberry