College of DuPage Students Find Unexpected Connection and Support After Class Transitions to Online Format

By: Mike McKissack

Andrea Polites Article Image

When College of DuPage transitioned all classes to an online format in response to COVID-19, Associate Professor of Human Services Andrea Polites had her doubts that the online environment would work well for her HUMAN 2212 Group Dynamics class. However, she was thrilled to find that the class was not only a complete success, but that it also served to support the students during exceptionally challenging circumstances.

“While they didn’t act like a typical support group, the class became an impromptu support group for the students,” she said. “The class helped them manage their anxiety about the pandemic by enabling them to meet and interact with each other. The topics we covered and our interaction really helped to keep them connected to their peers and the College.”

A requirement in the Human Services Associate in Applied Science degree and certificate programs, the three-credit course covers the basics of running a therapeutic group, covering elements such as the group process, leadership styles, documentation skills, group research and gender and cultural issues that may impact group treatment. Students discussed and organized groups around a range of topics, including conflict, family norms, grief, time management, social media and dealing with stressful situations.

Sonia Valdez, a resident of LaGrange Park, is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts degree in Addictions Counseling 3+1 program, through which students complete three years of a bachelor’s degree program on COD’s campus before transferring to National Louis University to complete their fourth year at a reduced tuition rate. She said the group dynamics class, despite transitioning to a virtual environment, was one of her favorite classes she has taken at COD. She added that the circumstances created an environment that was ideal for the group to offer each other support.

“I think we all supported each other so well during the transition,” she said. “Each person in the classroom was very flexible and understanding about the situation. I feel like knowing how difficult it may be for some made us more supportive of each other in the end. We all came together and tried to make it as easy on each other as we could by giving it our all and doing what we had to do to complete the course most efficiently.”

Hoping to work with children in the welfare system, Valdez plans to complete her master’s degree after completing the 3+1 program. She said she was impressed with the students’ participation in the classroom.

“The best part about the class was that everyone still participated very well,” she said. “It didn’t make anyone shy away from being involved even though it would have been easy to sort of float around in the back and be a fly on the wall.”

Bolingbrook resident Anthony Rocco plans to complete the College’s Bachelor of Arts degree in the Human Services 3+1 program in spring 2021. He said the success of the class was, in large part, due to Andrea Polites’ skills as a professor. He added that having classroom time before the COVID-19 shutdown was an important element in the success of the class once it transitioned to an online format.

“Our class was very lucky to have had the first eight weeks to build our rapport and get to know each other and that was a huge help,” he said. “While leading a group was a little different for students who were learning remotely, there was still fantastic conversation and good things for group leaders to take away from the discussions.”

Polites said that despite being initially apprehensive about the transition to an online format, she could not be happier with the results.

“I was so anxious and hesitant to move forward online with this because I felt that the class really requires the physical connection,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised that, amidst the frustration and chaos of the circumstances, the class turned out to be an amazingly positive experience. The students had a real desire to connect and we had almost perfect attendance. They were so happy to make the connection that often, I had to end the class because it ran overtime.”

Learn more about the Human Services program at College of DuPage.

Learn more about the College’s Human Services 3+1 programs.