CLTCEC students gain new skill during the pandemic: digital learning
By Anissa Rivera
The odds were against them: many weren’t computer-savvy. For most, long work hours and family obligations left precious little time for school.
But in the challenge to transition from in-person to remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students at the California Long-Term Care Education Center (CLTCEC) were inspired and emboldened by their instructors and field reps. They embraced a can-do mentality to succeed.
The doubts came first.
“When we had to switch to online, I thought it would set me back because I’m not computer savvy,” said Sandra Owens-Taylor, who was part of CLTCEC’s recent IHSS+ Training cohort. “I was intimidated but I was willing to try. I kept saying, ‘You can do this. All things are possible if you believe.’”
CLTCEC is the largest provider of long-term care training in California. Before the pandemic, classes were held in person in multiple languages across Los Angeles County.
Anahit Melkonyan didn’t think online classes were for her.
“I didn’t think I’d get anything from it,” she said.
Corinne Eldridge, president and CEO of CLTCEC, said staff utilized a handful of solutions to meet their students’ needs. They worked overtime to develop tutorials in multiple languages on how to use Zoom and registering and taking online continuing education and food handler classes.
“Understandably, many of our students had a lot of apprehension about online learning because of anxiety related to using technological devices,” she said. “Through tutorials administered through several different means as well as personal and group sessions, we’ve seen our students’ comfort grow weekly.”
Instructor Juliana Mata-Pacheco made sure she honed her own online skills so she could confidently teach in the digital world. Student Albert Hernandez said Mata-Pacheco’s online expertise translated to a smooth transition.
“She had it on lockdown from the first day,” said Hernandez, who took the English language class.
For her part, Mata-Pacheco said while she offered reassurance, students brought their own bright outlook to the partnership.
Owens-Taylor admitted she may have taken her final exam twice because she wasn’t sure it went through.
“It was added pressure to learn but it was also awesome,” she said. “I got more and more excited every week, learning all the steps and icons, and where to click. I didn’t get it the first few times, but I remember finally telling my son, ‘I got on!’”
Owens-Taylor was a former executive for the garment industry who had previous training in tutoring as well as hospice care. She enrolled to heighten her care for one of her consumers who suffers from dementia.
“You don’t know everything and things change,” Owens-Taylor said. “I wanted to see where I am and how I’m doing things. And I’m absolutely using my training, from proper hand washing, to helping them brush their teeth, to safety protocols.”
Aylin Soleymanian, who provides care for her mother-in-law, overcame her hesitation once the virtual classes started.
“In the beginning, I was not sure what will happen and I was not sure I could finish my training. But when we start the online class I got so excited and actually I loved it,” she said. “Nothing was hard. I loved learning new stuff as a provider to take care of our consumer and ourselves.”
Online learning has grown on Melkonyan too. Both Melkonyan and Soleymanian were in the Armenian language class.
“We are face to face (on Zoom,) and we have so many options,” she said. “Our teacher is so patient with us and all our questions. I’m surprised how she tolerates us, but (I joke with her) now she can mute us online.”
Melkonyan drives to her mother every day, staying late into the evening. In her training, she has learned essential caregiving skills such as oral care, home safety, infection control and standard precautions, medication adherence, nutrition, and exercise. .
“We learn to do things the right way, and I really appreciate everything,” Melkonyan said. “This gives me peace of mind that nobody neglects her and she is cared for. We’ve become friends too. We trust each other very much. I go with her to doctor’s appointments and ask questions.”
Nivia de la Cerda, who has been an IHSS caregiver since the fall of 2019, was determined to finish training to better help her mother.
“When the Covid lockdown happened, I expected things to go quiet,” she said. “I know this training is something I can carry with me. (Now) I have the right tools and the knowledge. I’m caring for my mom and my younger children. It has changed me so much and made an impact in my life.”