Education profile: Business students and faculty at Pittsburgh Technical College make a smooth transition to online | Education Issue | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Education profile: Business students and faculty at Pittsburgh Technical College make a smooth transition to online

click to enlarge Michele Zollner, academic chair at PTC's School of Business - CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG
CP Photo: Kaycee Orwig
Michele Zollner, academic chair at PTC's School of Business
The pandemic may have disrupted collegiate life for a lot of students, but for Marita Adams, a 21-year-old business major at Pittsburgh Technical College, not much has changed. Much of her schoolwork, as well as interaction with classmates and instructors, had already been conducted through Blackboard, a popular online learning platform that has proven invaluable to many higher education institutions as buildings have had to shut down.

“I really didn't live on campus,” says Adams, a totally virtual student who previously earned an associate's degree in web design from PTC. She now lives and studies from her mother's home in Brookline, located about 30 minutes from the campus.

Michele Zollner, academic chair at PTC's School of Business, believes the business program was perfectly equipped to handle something like the pandemic, as they have long pushed for students to learn online. This made it easier to accommodate working adult students who also have to juggle jobs and family responsibilities, and need a more flexible option to being in the classroom.


“There really wasn't a terribly dramatic transition for business students or the business faculty,” says Zollner. She explains that they moved students to all-online instruction around mid-March, when the pandemic first took hold.

“We in essence said, if your classes meet for two hours on Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 2 p.m., your classes are going to continue to meet like that,” she says. “There was some of that continuity that I think, from a student perspective, made it easier for them to go virtual.”

When problems did arise, she says her colleagues were willing and able to help.

“Our IT department has been exceptional in helping students with resources that they need and might not have had at home to be successful,” says Zollner. She adds that faculty members who were more savvy with instructional technology also stepped up to show others how it worked.


Zollner, who oversees every aspect of the School of Business, says that they require all students to take at least one online class as part of PTC's emphasis on career readiness, making sure graduates are prepared to tackle working in online environments.

She admits business students and faculty are fortunate compared to other, more technical departments at the school, which also offers training in electronics and the culinary arts, as well as various trades.

“How do you possibly teach welding online?” asks Zollner, adding the school has allowed some students in other departments to return to campus.
click to enlarge Marita Adams, business major at Pittsburgh Technical College - CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG
CP Photo: Kaycee Orwig
Marita Adams, business major at Pittsburgh Technical College
Challenges remain, however, as some students still face learning in living spaces where there may be noisy kids, roommates, or family members making it difficult to find a quiet, orderly place to attend class. Zollner understands that many may also fear that they are missing out on a real college experience as they're stuck learning from their childhood bedrooms instead of being on campus.

Before pursuing a bachelor degree in applied management, Adams remembers being on campus for her web design program and fondly recalls a show where she and her classmates got to present their final projects.

“Before the pandemic, it seemed like there were a lot of students there,” says Adams. “But I hope this pandemic ends soon, and they'll increase in students again.”

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