I don’t need to tell you what a strange year 2020 has been. Each individual, family, community, business, industry and nation has been impacted by the pandemic in different ways. Citizens of the world are weary. But there are signs of hope as each of us seeks solutions for new and unforeseen challenges. We’re looking at a new world, folks. Some of it may resemble its predecessor. Some of it probably will not.

That is reflected in the plans we’re making for the Spring 2021 semester at Cochise College. Registration started on the first of this month and continues into early January, with classes beginning January 11.

Following a fall semester of classes delivered primarily in a remote format, and a survey of students that indicated this type of learning is not effective for all, the college has planned a robust spring schedule of classes to be delivered face-to-face, through live streaming, and online. We plan to offer more face-to-face instruction for students who need and desire this learning format. Over one-third of the spring schedule is face-to-face courses, including trades programs, labs, Student Success Strategies, and many general education courses, including math and English. A lot of Cochise College students require lower-level math and English, and having a faculty member who can easily read understanding in students’ expressions will add value to the learning experience.

How are we doing this? We evaluated physical learning spaces at all locations and identified for expansion specific rooms to modify at the Douglas and Sierra Vista campuses. I do not mean that we are constructing new facilities. Rather, we are knocking down walls to create larger spaces where students can attend and spread out. For example, the south half of the Administration Building at the Douglas Campus is being converted to one large room that will be able to accommodate about 24 socially distanced individuals.

The Spring 2021 schedule seeks to provide opportunities in all formats. While we’re concerned about safety, we’re also concerned about giving students opportunities to fulfill their dreams and prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. We as a community simply cannot afford to lose a whole generation of students. If you’re not an online learner, you can easily search what face-to-face courses ARE available at cochise.edu/schedule.

Remote activities, when effective, can be extremely efficient, and some of the changes we’re seeing could become permanent. Nursing, for example, reports less stressed students as remote instruction has allowed them to spend fewer hours on the road. What this means for required certification testing scores remains to be seen.

Even as many things have come to a halt, we are excited to expand programming in cybersecurity and automotive technology and to launch a virtual reality developer program. Innovation and moving forward continues at Cochise College; rest assured that your future paramedics are not taking their course online, but if that were necessary, we would find a way to provide a high-quality learning experience.

As we enter 2021, and as the future becomes a little more clear, Cochise College aims to rise to the challenge to do what it has always done: impact the local economy, communities and citizens by providing accessible learning opportunities that are responsive to a diverse population and lead to constructive citizenship, meaningful careers, and lifelong learning.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.