HCC students & faculty adapting to virtual learning in creative ways

HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) -- Carolina Linares is staying busy. As a student at Houston Community College, she's juggling classes and producing stories for the college system's television station, HCCTV. You would hardly know that she's 1,000 miles away.

"I'm in Columbus, Indiana," said Linares. "I had to travel to visit my sister for spring break and I got stuck here. I've been studying and working from Indiana.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, she could not return home.

"This is a very small city, so everything looked a lot like a ghost town for me," said Linares. "It was very strange for me to see."

The emptiness was so haunting, she decided to film a story for HCCTV about life in a ghost town. She used only her iPhone to do it.

"I decided to create this story of being stuck in Indiana," said Linares. "HCCTV is facing a very challenging situation. Even though we do not have the equipment that we have in the studios, like the cameras, the microphones and so on, we have been very creative. I'm using my iPhone to create these videos for social media."

Even without actual equipment, young HCCTV journalists are thinking outside the box to tell stories amid a pandemic.

"If you think about the iPhone 11 pro max, it has three cameras," said HCCTV intern Benjamin Escobar. "I could use three different angles without moving the phone."

Escobar is quickly adapting.

"I'm really thankful because even now, with what's happening with Covid-19, HCCTV is sending us a lot of projects to do that are keeping us busy."

For Escobar, the story he wanted to tell was the struggle of his parents' small business, Limeños, a Salvadoran Restaurant on West Little York. He shot a video for HCCTV on his iPhone, highlighting the need to support small local businesses.

"I'm really grateful for those people who come out and look for a small business to buy from," said Escobar.

For Houston Community College, the transition to virtual learning came suddenly and unexpectedly.

"We kind of saw the writing on the wall that this was going to head south," said HCC Economics professor Richard Gosselin. "We didn't know that this was going to be for the entire semester, but we said, we need to at least be prepared, even if this is just for a few weeks, to transition online."

Hosselin created HCC's Faculty Video Lounge to help professors and staff adjust to virtual learning.

"The faculty video lounge was really just a place where faculty could get together to share ideas and to perhaps help one another," said Gosselin. "It was really a very modest start. I wasn't really expecting very many people to join us. In fact, in the first few days we only had a couple dozen professors."

But that number quickly multiplied.

"There's no way I thought it would become this big," said Gosselin. "I thought, if 100 people come, that would be a smashing success. There are over 900 faculty members in the lounge now."

Now, there are workshops in the Faculty Video Lounge all day long.

"In the beginning we had only a couple dozen workshops," said Gosselin. "Last week, we had 71 workshops starting at 7:00 in the morning and the last one ended at 10PM. They're providing a whole host of workshops, like how to use Webex, how to create videos, how to launch a quiz."

Even with unprecedented challenges, HCC is proving, it's more resilient than ever.

"I think the biggest thing was just the lack of interaction," said Gosselin. "Even if the student physically can't be with you, even if they're able to see you in a recorded video, that really kind of eases their fears because they're like, oh there's a real human being there. There's my professor. That made all the difference in the world."

For more information on HCC, visit hccs.edu.
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