Mercer takes pride in its faculty, and here are some reasons why. The stories linked below offer a glimpse of the spectrum of interests, talents, and accomplishments of Mercer County Community College faculty in the classroom, in the community, and far beyond.
Mercer County Community College kicked off its Fall semester a little different this year. Faculty members across the campus adjusted to teaching remotely and have been trying to find ways to strengthen courses. Associate Professor of English and Journalism Matthew Kochis has been finding new ways to convert his in-person classes to the new online format while still accommodating students.
When classes first converted to online during the Spring semester, Kochis converted his courses to completely online. Meaning students were not required to attend class through Zoom. Students just had to submit assignments online. However, since then, Kochis has been doing extensive research to try and find new ways to keep students engaged during class. Through Zoom and Microsoft, he has been able to conduct group work while learning remotely. Students work together through Microsoft documents and then re-group as a class to go over their completed work. This way of learning helps with keeping the productivity within each class, even though the students are learning online.
This process has been a learning experience for everyone. Kochis has learned that the way he taught each class needed to be mixed up in order to not bore the students and keep them engaged in the learning process. He has done this by trying to simulate different types of learning modes to keep the information retained and help them use different learning tools as well.
Kochis emphasized the importance of having to be flexible during these times and be able to communicate with students as much as possible. Technology will fail during these times, but there are different ways to communicate with students. You don’t have to be an expert in everything, so if you’re struggling with technology or coming up with new ideas, speak out so others can help because we are all in this together.
Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Associate Professor of English Nicole Homer has been teaching online for years. But after entering a recent culture shift, she has been rethinking her approach. In the middle of the Spring semester, Homer found herself shifting the priorities for her students as they began to take all of their classes online.
“I just mostly re-centered humanity and had to rethink what is important,” she says. “Is the time I get assignments important? Is it okay for students to turn in assignments late? We don’t know what each student is going through during this time, so I have shifted to more one on one conversations with students.”
During these times, it is important to prioritize. Ultimately, students need to pass our classes in order to measure success. Homer reminds that maintaining your own mental and physical health also measures success. As students, faculty, and staff we should not be asking ourselves and others to sacrifice our health. We should be working to find the balance between taking classes and living a healthy lifestyle.
There are many things that are missed right now. For Homer, it’s talking to her students every day, having the ability to teach in a classroom, and overall building the community aspect. Although these can be done through Zoom, it is just not the same, but we are trying.
As the world became more digital, the Communications department at Mercer County Community College needed to find ways to effectively continue to educate students, even from their own homes. Communications Professor Kathi Paluscio took the time to analyze who she was talking to, design a very specific message, and make sure it got across to all of her students.
As a Public Speaking Professor, Paluscio realized that this transition would not be easy for everyone. Students had gotten comfortable speaking in front of each other and just when speeches started to grow and come to life, students were forced to learn from home. At first, Paluscio's biggest priority was making sure each student knew the basics of recording and uploading their speeches to YouTube. She knew she could not just post the assignments online and expect students to learn the same as if they were in class.
Then most importantly, Paluscio made sure that they were still connected and active. She did not want her students to give up just yet. By finding a different way to connect with the students, Paluscio created videos to keep her students engaged and continue to stay on top of their schoolwork. She also made sure that every two days she was sending resources and redirecting the class to make sure they were up to date on all of the changes.
Even though the beginning of the transition was difficult, Paluscio and her students were able to work together through a challenging time. By the end, students were redesigning how they presented their speeches and creating new ideas for the future of the class.
“Now that they have done those things, I now have visual aids and example speeches for how to do things online,” Paluscio said. “We may not have the answer to everything, but if we stick together we can accomplish anything.” This has allowed Paluscio and her students to work together to revamp the future of the class.
As faculty members at MCCC have adapted to working from home, Paluscio knows many others are finding amazing and innovative ideas to make sure that everyone stays connected.