By Anselmo Ramon, Chair, Academic Programs in Workforce and Community Development
Even with a pandemic, the Tohono O’odham Community College’s Pre-College GED Program successfully reached out to its GED community on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Over a year later, the transition in the fall of 2020 to an online GED zoom class has proven to be a success!
Students and instructors were both challenged with the transition to an online learning model. The concept of teaching and learning online via Zoom was new to TOCC’s GED students and instructors—in fact, most of the students who were enrolled prior to the pandemic did not have a laptop or had not even experienced using one for any purpose.
TOCC’s GED teaching team met in August 2020 and discussed how to communicate with and continue work with the GED community. The team created what they call the “TOCC Pre-College GED Stay-At-Home GED Program”. The program issued 15 Chromebooks to enrolled GED students. GED instructors and students quickly learned how to navigate online learning and the best strategies to study and learn GED content using Zoom. From Fall 2020 to December 2020, the Pre-College GED program had six GED students complete the course yet not one of these students had stepped into a GED classroom.
The success of the Pre-College GED Program was due to instructors and students making a commitment to get through the program and not let the pandemic be a barrier to success.
In November of 2021, the program changed to an in-person GED hybrid model. Students are able to participate in-person or attend classes virtually via Zoom. The return to in-person classes has been met with some hesitancy, as students feel safer at home and have become accustomed to studying remotely. In addition, at-home learning is often more convenient, as transportation to the campus requires many miles of travel depending on where students live on the reservation. Some students must travel 45 miles or more, one way! Learning from home has certainly been a plus for students who do not have transportation. Providing a hybrid model helps students who requested a return to in-person classes as well as those who prefer online learning.
Our transition to online learning has provided us with many new insights that have helped us build our online GED program. Our goal is for GED students to complete their program in one year from the date of enrollment.
To support this goal, we implemented a few key programming elements. We purchased digital software that allows students to study GED content online via a smartphone and/or tablet. Our GED program also provides an attendance raffle for students who maintain a 75% or higher attendance rate each quarter, and we have a $100 gift certificate incentive for students who pass an official GED subject exam. Other incentives include $25 and $50 gas cards, cell phone minute cards, and merchandise from the TOCC store such as T-shirts, water bottles, and school supplies.
The other major breakthrough in our programming has been our partnership with the Arizona Department of Education. During the fall of 2021, they established official online, at-home GED testing. This option allows students who are ready to test to schedule their exam online, be ready 30 minutes before the exam, and start the test when the online proctor gives the OK to start.
All these steps have added up to an efficient GED program suited for the realities our students face every day.
Our GED website includes a list of GED resources that anyone can use and learn from. Some of our staff and students use these online resources for their children who are also learning from home. Visit our webpage at https://tocc.edu/pre-college-ged/.