The new normal: like so many other students and workers around the world, members of the JEVS hireAbility program IT Career Readiness now take classes from home, meeting only online.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our way of life has been transformed. With over half of the country’s population (and counting) under stay-at-home orders, schools, businesses, and nonprofit organizations have had to drastically alter the way they operate.
Here at JEVS Human Services, we remain committed to those we serve, and though our methods may have changed, the goal remains the same: “making hope happen,” and providing opportunity to individuals facing adverse socio-economic conditions and challenges of all kinds.
That’s why essential staff at some JEVS locations, like our Achievement through Counseling & Treatment (ACT) clinics, Community Living & Home Supports and JEVS Care at Home are reporting to work as scheduled.
The remainder of JEVS staff is working from home, utilizing online tools like GotoMeeting, WebEx and Zoom to connect with program participants virtually.
An Information Technology Program Adapts Easily to Online Learning
“I think the group has connected on a deeper level than would have been possible in the classroom.”
“Our switch to online class was unexpected, but it was actually a smooth transition,” said instructor Muhamed Gashat. The ease with which the class adjusted may have something to do with its subject matter.
IT Career Readiness is a six-month training and career exposure program that helps young adults with a disability develop skills in the information technology (IT) industry. Students receive hands-on IT training, career exploration, and paid work experience with job coaching.
To make the switch to online instruction, the staff set up a virtual classroom via Go To Meeting, where they meet with students daily to review class material and prepare for the CompTIA certification exam. (CompTIA stands for Computing Technology Industry Association and the exam is to certify the competency of entry-level PC computer service professionals).
Achieving a Greater Connection
Instructor Muhamed believes the virtual learning has been a real benefit to the program. “It not only gave us a way to continue to engage with our students; it gave them a way to stay in touch with each other. I think the group has connected on a deeper level than would have been possible in the classroom. This has come to be a time we all look forward to.”
Project Coordinator Tara Campbell agrees. “The daily online meetings give a sense of normalcy. It gives me a reason to get up and get dressed every day! And it’s a great way to get to know each other and connect with students in their own comfortable space.”
Though learning virtually may slow the timing of coursework somewhat, all of the students reported that the online sessions have made them feel more confident about taking their certification tests.
Plus, they actually enjoy it.
As one student explained, “My mom doesn’t let me out of the house right now because of health concerns. This class is a good time for me to talk to my friends and do something better than just watching TV. I like it better than in person!”
Relieving Stress in a Challenging Time
In this time of high anxiety, the staff have worked to incorporate stress-relief activities into the class, such as deep breathing techniques, online games to play together, and sharing live-streaming nature cameras. Fridays in particular have a much more relaxed atmosphere.
“We recently took a break from classwork to play a game,” said Tara. “The students sent me pictures from their phones and I created a slide show. Then we went through each photo and students had to guess whose phone the picture came from. We all had a great time and laughed non-stop. It was a much needed distraction and a great way to feel connected to each other during this time of isolation.”
The Online Experience is Here to Stay
Tara believes the program will continue to utilize online meetings even after it becomes possible to hold class in person again. It is likely other JEVS programs will do the same. Going forward, this new added dimension will allow JEVS to provide a fuller, richer experience to those we serve.
“Overall it has been an amazing experience,” said Muhamed. “I think they will remember this for many years to come.”
IT Career Readiness is funded by Philadelphia Works, Inc.
If you have questions about specific services here at JEVS, please contact the program directly during normal business hours or email us anytime at email@example.com.