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In managing COVID-19, East Georgia State keeps focus on student success

While COVID-19 has changed some of the ways East Georgia State College offers its classes, the pandemic only focused East Georgia’s mission of providing the best education opportunities to its students even more.

“COVID has changed the college by encouraging faculty members to analyze how they teach students, identify the best methods for fostering learning under these circumstances, and identify barriers that students must overcome to be successful,” said Courtney Joiner, associate professor of History and coordinator of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Swainsboro campus. 

Shepherding student success has been a hallmark of East Georgia State since its founding, and is exemplified in the fact that more than two-thirds of East Georgia State College’s first-time, full-time freshmen successfully transfer to another college or university within three years after starting as beginning freshmen at EGSC.

Harley Strickland Smith, coordinator of Communications and The Fulford Community Learning Center at East Georgia, said “Our faculty are committed to meeting the academic needs of students, and this includes flexibility in the ways courses are taught. We offer classes taught in various instructional modes, including traditional face-to-face classes, hybrid classes, synchronous online classes and asynchronous online classes.”

Currently, East Georgia’s face-to-face classes meet one, two or three days a week and are on campus and in person. To ensure safety, there is spaced seating in classes, hallways and other indoor public areas. 

Smith said that when face-to-face class enrollment exceeds seating capacity in a classroom, the mode of instruction becomes hybrid. In hybrid classes, the students are sectioned into groups that attend class face-to-face on alternating days and attend online the other days.

Megan Scruggs, an East Georgia State staff member and online nontraditional student, said she is grateful for the way her professors have made the extra effort to connect with her. She appreciates that her professors work diligently to provide a virtual classroom experience that is both appealing and interesting.

In the future, Smith does see a return to more traditional class offerings.

“As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, we anticipate that many classes will return to a face-to-face mode of instruction,” she said. “However, we also know that student demand for online instruction may continue, as many students have adjusted to the different demands of online instruction. One of the best features of East Georgia State College is that the smaller class size promotes better connections among students and the professor and students with other students. We eagerly await a return to face-to-face instruction because students perform better academically in that kind of setting and because we miss seeing our Bobcats on campus.”

In November 2018, East Georgia and Georgia Southern announced that East Georgia would move its campus into the Nessmith-Lane Continuing Education Building — the heart of the GS campus. Similarly, the functions of Continuing Education at Georgia Southern will move to the East Georgia campus on 301 South.

A year ago, East Georgia was hoping to have the move completed in time to start the Fall 2021 semester on the new campus. COVID, however, slowed down that timeline.

“Our understanding, at this time, is that construction will begin this summer and we will officially make the move during December,” Smith said. “If everything goes according to schedule, we will be in the updated space on the Georgia Southern campus by January 2022.”

East Georgia State College continues to grow and it has become the college of choice for many students for many reasons. It is ranked among the top 50 institutions of higher education in the U.S. with the lowest tuition and lowest net price as reported by the U.S. Department of Education's most recent College Affordability and Transparency List. 

“Students who attend EGSC appreciate that they can either transfer or earn an associates or bachelor’s degree at such an affordable cost,” Smith said. 

And while COVID-19 has made a lasting impact on the college, Jessica Williamson, director of the East Georgia State College Statesboro site, offered a different perspective.

“One positive way I believe COVID has impacted the college is there is an increase in empathy between students, faculty, and staff,” she said. “We are all trying to get through the pandemic the best way we are able, and this crisis has demonstrated a new, we are ‘in this together,’ mindset.”

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