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Adaptable at Our Core: Champlain College Online & the People Who Power Us

Melissa Marcello

In the 11 years I’ve been in fully online education, I’ve witnessed students, faculty, and staff (and, most especially, our academic advisors) adapt to unimaginable circumstances. Collectively, we’ve experienced tropical storms, hurricanes with names we all remember, flooding from the aforementioned, acts of terrorism, and the list goes on. 

Together, through some good luck and even better planning, we’ve ended up on the other side of these challenging circumstances: we’ve learned, and we’ve persevered. Today’s pandemic will be no different, I am certain. Although its impacts are farther-reaching than anything in recent memory, all of the adaptability we’ve had the opportunity to hone over the years has prepared us for this moment and more.


How Champlain College Online is Adapting 

On an institutional level, the pandemic has required us to make some significant changes to how we operate. As the online division of our College, here’s how we have pivoted to serve our current and prospective students at this critical time.

First, as all of us are currently working from home, we communicate as teams far more frequently than ever. Advisors have a daily ten-minute check-in meeting. In admissions, marketing, and across CCO, we all use Google's chat function for information sharing and quick touch bases, and we update our calendars frequently so others know how to reach us. We’re utilizing Google docs, Google sheets, and GoogleMeet to work collaboratively and stay connected. And faculty are getting more frequent communication from their Program Directors and other academic leadership - from emails to synchronous, secure Zoom meetings to share expectations about grading and participation at this unprecedented time.

Second, we are finding additional ways to support our students. We’ve always prided ourselves on our appreciative advising model and the investment we make in getting to know our students and their goals on an individual level. And we know our students have appreciated the 24/7 tech support in the online classroom, the SmartThinking tutoring that is available every day and night, as well as our resume review service through SmartThinking. More recently, however, we’ve added Wellness Wednesdays to support our students, and if participation is any measure of its success, this is something we will continue well into the future. We are also doing more frequent outreach, and we are finding our students are reaching out to us more frequently, too (which we love, by the way!).

Lastly, we are finding moments to celebrate all that is going well, including our students’ achievements and our staff members’ ability to adjust to unanticipated circumstances. This morning, for example, a good portion of our marketing team meeting was devoted to reflecting on and celebrating our virtual commencement, which took place over the weekend. We talked about our amazing student commencement speakers, Otobong Michael Ukpong and CJ Peterson, and how so many more students and their families were able to experience this special day because it happened online.

While we cannot wait to host everyone on campus in the year ahead, we are so glad we were able to find a way to overcome these challenging circumstances - as our long history of adaptation has taught us -  to honor the occasion. It brought all of us at CCO, and our families who watched alongside, great happiness to celebrate our students’ many achievements now rather than wait for a time when that could safely happen in the future. 

About the Author

Melissa Marcello

Associate Vice President

Melissa Marcello is Associate Vice President of Champlain College Online, where she oversees marketing and admissions, truED, Champlain's workforce development program, and other administrative processes. She is passionate about adult learning, having returned to school herself as an adult to finish a bachelor's at USF, master's at Purdue, and start two years of a PhD program at the UW Madison that she may one day complete.