While all Alamance Community College students are learning online this semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic, one drawback to “sheltering-in-place” is that they cannot participate in extra-curricular or culturally significant activities. The student History Club and its faculty advisor, Sherri Singer, decided not to sit back wishing things were different. Instead, they brainstormed in a teleconference meeting and decided to coordinate some ‘virtual activities.’
Following last Thanksgiving’s successful “Egg a Teacher” activity in which students submitted thank you notes to teachers, the History Club planned to replicate the event this Easter with candy in plastic eggs as a thank you to their instructors. When the COVID-19 pandemic stymied that initiative, the club didn’t want to give up. They made the plan ‘virtual,’ created survey forms in Google Docs, and shared it online with other students.
“Students have been thanking their teachers with little letters and sharing on ACC-sanctioned club Facebook pages. Then I’m sending along to their instructors. The students really wanted to thank their teachers for all they’ve done to put instruction online, among other things. And the faculty have really appreciated the sentiments.”
The History Club also wants to help fellow students prepare for exams in May. During a recent Zoom meeting, students shared their classmates’ anxiety over approaching testing in this new, virtual-instruction environment.
“Our Zoom meetings also serve as mental health checks on our students,” said advisor Singer. “What I’ve been hearing from them is that studying is different now, and it’s harder. They’re worried about final exams and want to help each other by sharing study tips online.”
Consequently, a plan was put into place by History Club students in which study tip ideas will be submitted via Facebook, History Club web page, and the Moodle software supplement used by students for communication.
“We hope this really blossoms to all our students and helps them as we get closer to finals,” said Singer.
What hopes to be an archival record of the current pandemic crisis through the eyes of ACC students is another project initiated by students in the History Club. Spearheaded by Singer, the COVID Chronicles is an online site where students can upload images.
“We’re all seeing and hearing about the pandemic in the national news, but we wanted to document what our students are seeing through their own eyes, on a personal level,” said Singer.
“That way their children and grandchildren can look back and understand what these current students faced.”
Examples of photos or videos submitted can be pictures of low gas prices, signs and lines at stores, protective masks, their online learning via laptops and shelter-in-place hobbies.
Singer hopes to create slide shows for the History Club’s Facebook page, with the potential of uploading the photos to other archive sites upon request.
“Since they are living a significant historical event, we wanted them to have a way to take action,” she explained. “Students need to be involved and many are lonely and scared at home. Taking action and participating means a lot to them. They need to be in control somehow. It provides engagement for our students and keeps them coming back to our web pages and checking in on what our campus club is doing. This also helps students process how things are different, and how their lives have changed. They are making history.”
Singer said the images and comments that will be uploaded by students can later provide materials for school projects, a pandemic time capsule, or other archival collections.
Singer added that all the activities – Egg a Teacher, virtual study skills, and the COVID Chronicles – have been initiated by the Google Docs ACC provides to students, with no cost to the College.