The executive team at Swedish Institute began taking steps to prepare for possible closure in the week leading up to COVID-19 being officially declared a global pandemic (March 11, 2020).
In the days leading up to March 11, we mobilized a committee that was comprised of our program deans, IT department, and executive team to develop a strategy to enable virtual learning and operating remotely. Since the College already used Microsoft Teams for internal communications, we were able to swiftly train our faculty and students to utilize this virtual platform to effectively teach and attend classes remotely, while maintaining safety and social distance without interrupting education delivery. A large part of what made this sudden migration to online learning a relatively smooth transition was the technology that we had implemented 6 years prior.
COVID-19 AND iPAD LEARNING AT THE SWEDISH INSTITUTE
In 2014, Swedish Institute took a large leap in implementing iPad learning. Our executive team had the vision and foresight to recognize that technology was transforming the healthcare industry, which is why we became an early adopter of technology to best prepare our students for their future healthcare careers. Our goal was to put an iPad in the hands of every student and teacher with the objective of enabling them to work easier, communicate faster, engage interactively, and gain the technology skills that they need in today’s career fields.
By 2015, we became a fully iPad-enabled campus, meaning that every student and instructor at Swedish Institute is equipped with their own iPad. On it, they can find interactive applications, digital textbooks, and 24/7 access to their classroom materials with iTunes U. Swedish classrooms are also equipped with Apple TVs and projectors, which are used every day for presentations and more. Additionally, our dedicated faculty has authored and developed numerous iBooks and learning resources to present our curriculum in the best way possible for our students to access whether they are in the classroom or at home. In fall of 2019, Apple recognized and honored Swedish Institute as an Apple Distinguished School, designating us as a “center of innovation, leadership & educational excellence that showcases innovative uses of technology in learning, teaching & the school environment”.
When the possibility of a COVID-19 lockdown began to look like a probability, our committee quickly began training faculty, students and staff to utilize the iPads to conduct online classes and meetings. With the support of our IT Department and dedicated instructors, we were successful in migrating our learning and staff operations to a virtual environment.
SAFETY PROTOCOLS FOR HYBRID LEARNING
In March we moved all classes online, and in June, we began planning for Phase 1 of re-opening our buildings. This phase allows students in our Nursing, Massage Therapy, Surgical Technologist, and Medical Assisting programs to come to campus to attend clinical lab courses – which is required to complete the program. We also developed the Swedish Institute New York Forward Safety Plan in accordance with Empire State Development’s Essential Business Guidance.
This plan outlined in detail the steps we would take to re-open safely and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The College procured PPE, implemented strict check-in protocols, and increased cleaning and sanitizing measures along with daily logs, and signed affidavits. We drew population reports and implemented staggered class scheduling to ensure that no more than a certain number of people would be in the building at a set time, and in July, we opened our doors for the first set of lab classes.
ADMISSIONS AND FINANCIAL AID PROCESSES
Prospective students have the option to make an appointment on campus to meet with a representative, or the entire admissions and Financial Aid process can be completed over the phone and online. We also created a virtual tour of the campus for those who want to view it online.
Due to Covid restrictions, we have conducted our graduations and nursing pinning ceremonies virtually. While it is a different experience than being in person, the virtual component allows more friends and family members to be part of the celebration, whereas before space was limited.
The response from the student body has been positive, and we found that our students embraced this new learning environment. Students were able to continue their studies with minimal interruption while staying home and following the safety guidelines per the CDC and local governments. The College has also seen an increase in year-over-year new student enrollment.
6 years ago, we had the foresight to see how something like the iPad would be a learning equalizer and give everyone — faculty and students alike — the same access to educational content. 6 months ago, we saw overnight precisely how essential technology is going to be in the new digital world that we are all living in. We are currently planning the migration to a robust Learning Management System (LMS) that will deliver the best quality learning application in distance education for our students as we continue daily to monitor the developments of COVID-19.
From our inception in 1916 to our migration to digital education a century later, our mission at Swedish Institute remains a constant: to educate our students to become skilled and ethical healthcare professionals, and to provide them with innovative learning that is designed to meet the needs of an ever-evolving market.