COVID-19 has changed all of our lives. Masks and gloves are now part of our everyday wardrobe, and social distancing may be here to stay – at least for the near future. All meetings are now conducted viateleconference, with our living rooms, kitchens or even outside decks becoming our new “offices.”
Every industry has been forced to adapt to the changes in this new world, and the business ofeducation is no different. Live classrooms have since been replaced by online classes with instructorswho can reach out to us right from our computer screens.
In mid-March, the HGAR School of Real Estate became another Hudson Valley business affected by COVID-19. As our offices in White Plains, West Nyack and Goshen were directed to shut down, our first order of business was to determine how to transition all of our live in-person continuing education courses, multiple listing service classes and new member orientations to Zoom teleconferencing classes.
This daunting task was not accomplished overnight, but our entire education team played a vital role inhelping to make this happen in a very short period of time.
Prior to COVID-19, our school operated like many others, offering large classrooms in multiple locations. Following the closure of our offices, we immediately canceled any remaining live classes for March. Next, we contacted all of our instructors to develop a game plan for converting all of our live classes in our three locations to teleconference classes. The education team had to act quickly, as we knew that our Realtor members needed continuing education credits in order to renew their real estate licenses.
After the instructors felt comfortable using the Zoom technology, we also assigned a staff moderator for each class, so that they could monitor students’ questions via the teleconference “chat” feature.
By April 1, our school was up and running online. We have always offered our class registrations online via our website, so there was literally no change in that respect. Now, after students register, we email them a link to the class, along with any documents needed for that class.
Because students are using these classes for continuing education credits, we had to figure out how best to document their participation so they receive credit. We ask them to log onto the teleconference link at least 15 minutes prior to class time so we have plenty of time to accurately take attendance.
Another requirement is that they have a camera on their device and use the chat box to sign in and signout of class. This is important so that the students receive credit for these classes. Our team then givesall information to the Department of State, so they have a record of classes taken at our school.
Like many of those now telecommuting, many of our Realtors are tech savvy so the transition fromlive to online classes was seamless. As soon as we had classes available via Zoom, students registered.Initially we limited the number of participants to 20 per class, but now we are up to handling 45 perclass.
We’re finding that the classes are filled, the feedback has been terrific and currently we’re offering an average of 25 classes per month. They vary between one-hour, three hours, four hours, six hours and even seven-and-a-half hours. As for the costs, we kept our rates the same as they were for the live classes.
Since our students have been so receptive to this new way of learning, we plan to continue to offermore teleconferencing classes, even after Gov. Cuomo gives us the green light to return to our offices. We are considering offering a hybrid of live classes with Zoom teleconferencing.
As for returning to live classes only, we will approach that subject cautiously. We will have to consider limiting the number of attendees, as well as assigning “socially distanced” seating. As we move forward, our main concern is still the safety and health of our students.
Vicki D’Agostino, HGAR Director of Professional Development, oversees and directs the HGAR School of Real Estate, one of the largest real estate schools in New York. She works with a team at HGAR and various committees to increase member satisfaction and ensure the members succeed and thrive at HGAR. She can be reached at Vicki.D’Agostino@hgar.com.