I work with community education organizations using Vanco’s education administration software, ASAP. I cannot think of one Vanco client that has not been directly impacted by the pandemic. As I’ve worked with clients in recent weeks, I’ve seen how difficult it is for them to close spring operations. Of course, we all remain nervous about the future. But I’m seeing real reasons for cautious optimism about the coming months.
One thing that has not changed is the need for accessible and affordable education options to help learners thrive in a competitive economy. For many of these people, the cost of a university or community college education may be out of reach.
So, where does my optimism come from? Three things. First, in America, the foundation of our solution is already in place. It is our community education organizations. Situated in the hearts of our cities and towns, as well as across the suburbs, these groups offer an exceptional range of learning opportunities that are ready right now. These educational organizations offer certificates in clinical and medical assistance. They offer classes of all sorts, including English as a second language, finance, business, technology, GED courses and SAT prep. They also offer courses in wellness, exercise, music, dance and all forms of the arts. There are classes for everyone, from babies to people over 100. Each are affordable, most often with financial aid available, and sometimes they’re even free.
The second reason to be optimistic is that all of these organizations are fully capable of shifting their mix of offerings to suit the needs of learners in our new situation. From where I sit, interacting with Vanco’s ASAP clients, I see organizations across the country responding nimbly to the immediate needs in their communities for low-cost, accessible learning and training opportunities. Some clients have already successfully moved much of their teaching online. I’m even hearing of increasing enrollment, especially in early childhood music classes and courses for school-age children who would otherwise only be homeschooled for now. In some places, private lesson enrollments are higher than usual, too.
Reason number three for optimism is that the last 10 years has seen a growth of software designed specifically for the community education sector. This means ASAP clients, and others using similar platforms, are already part of the process of meeting this unprecedented health and economic challenge.
One client, Arlington Community Education in MA, managed to move some of their classes online quickly. Their director, Jen Rothenberg, told me, “At first, we made the decision not to offer virtual classes but it quickly became obvious that not only were we not going to be able to meet in-person any time soon but that online was how everything was shifting around us. Online learning forced us to re-think what community meant for community education.”
Here are just a few examples of the excellent online course you could explore: Arlington Community Education’s site, Merit Music’s offerings and Mt. Diablo Education’s new distance learning classes. ASAP is hosting some training webinars in the coming weeks to help you utilize all resources in your ASAP system as you plan on reopening, in whatever format you can.
We will hopefully be able to gather soon in groups to resume our work and studies. In the meantime, organizations that move teaching online will keep things going for themselves, their faculty, students and communities. I can’t think of another sector that is poised to have such an impact on the recovery of this country and some of our most vulnerable citizens.