Piedmont Tech students adapt to online-only coursework

Antonia Adams and Noel Johnson are two of the students at Piedmont Technical College who have had to adjust to distance learning during the COVID-19 shutdown. Photo courtesy of PTC.

Piedmont Technical College (PTC) student Antonia Adams has taken the transition to remote education in stride, though she misses the social aspects of college life.

The gregarious Phi Theta Kappa-honored scholar and Presidential Ambassador — who is widely involved in college life and a familiar face to many on campus — found the breakneck adjustment to completely virtual courses trouble-free but also a bit lonely. Always one to keep things in positive perspective, however, she expressed gratitude for PTC’s handling of the crisis.

“The transition to an online format was extremely well-done. Teachers were very quick in notifying students about the latest changes,” Adams said. PTC instructors absolutely had students’ backs should any problem arise. “All of my teachers have WebEx office hours. On WebEx, we can talk in real time. They can do things on their computer and show me their screen. That is very helpful.”

When “just a week or two” turned into many weeks, Adams went with the flow although she doesn’t particularly like home isolation.

“I was surprised when it became a long-term thing. That was disappointing to me because I love coming to school. I am a nerd. I thrive being around people and when I am out doing things,” she said. “During the transition, staying in D2L (the college’s learning management system) was very easy,” she said. “My (in-person) teachers worked very hard to get everything online quickly. I was able to keep working and studying as normal.”

Although she graduated in December with an associate degree in business administration with a concentration on accounting, PTC student Noel Johnson has continued taking classes as she pursues a career in human resources. The pandemic has affected her in a powerful way, but not because of the online learning environment.

Johnson began a paid internship in human resources at WCTEL in Abbeville last year. Her time working there changed her focus from accounting to human resources, a field she has come to love. That internship is continuing this spring, and like so many other Americans, Johnson has found herself and her WCTEL co-workers doing their jobs from home.

“It’s a little different working from home because, in HR, we deal with people and aren’t able to see them in person right now,” she said. “We are working on ways to keep our employees interactive with each other.”

The switch to a virtual college environment at PTC, she says, has been smooth.

“I’m still taking two online classes at Piedmont Tech,” she said. “I am finishing up my human resources certificate. My classes were already online this semester, so nothing really changed for me. I think PTC does a good job keeping instructors connected with students.”

Johnson also took several online courses before graduating, so it was familiar territory, and the college has offered online courses for students who work or need greater flexibility for many years.

“I think right now, they really have a good system set up,” she said.

While Adams was planning a move to Columbia to attend the University of South Carolina this summer, she has put those plans on hold because UofSC recently announced that all summer courses would be delivered online as well. When the university welcomes students on campus again, Adams wants to live in a dormitory and participate in student life as actively as she has at PTC.

“I want to live on campus,” she said. “I am a very involved student. I like the feeling of being on a college campus. It’s a more immersive experience.”