Susan Burgoon helps her students transition to remote learning

by Joe Wyatt
Published April 1, 2020

By the time it became clear that the best means of protecting the entire Amarillo College community involved moving courses to an all-remote delivery system, Dr. Susan Burgoon’s wheels were already turning.

RiseChallengeINNot only had the professor of biology long since cancelled her spring break travel plans, she had commandeered the chalkboard in her kitchen and begun jotting down ideas to support remote-learning success.


Even before the chalk dust settled – and with the start of classes still in the offing – Burgoon had immersed many of her Anatomy and Physiology II students in a pair of live chats, one for each section she is teaching, via Zoom.


“It worked out really well,” Burgoon said. “Surprisingly, they were all new to Zoom, but they were all like ‘this is very cool, this is going to work’ when they saw how easily they would be able to share among their classmates and lab partners.”


Yet video conferencing is just one aspect of Burgoon’s blueprint for student success during this unprecedented transition to remote learning.


She has sent her students informative emails every couple of days. She swiftly posted amended syllabi to AC’s digital learning management system, Blackboard.


Burgoon also created and distributed a Google survey to assess her students’ collective mindset, and she even assembled 47 lab kits in zip-lock bags that are ready for pickup so students can conduct experiments at home.


The kits contain items such as lancets, alcohol swabs, cotton balls, coffee straws and pipe cleaners for use in projects ranging from constructing antibody models to fashioning artificial lungs.


Burgoon says she learned much by researching strategies faculty are using at peer institutions, and through purposeful collaboration with colleagues at AC.


“Necessity is the mother of invention, and none of us are Lone Rangers,” Burgoon said. “We’ve got a good support system – each other – and it is such a blessing. In the STEM fields we’re always teaching the scientific method of experimentation, striving to get closer to workable outcomes, anyway.


“Sure, we’re going to have some hiccups along the way, but like I tell my students, ‘you learn best by making mistakes.’ If something breaks we’ll fix it together.”


Burgoon’s own positivity was mirrored in the confident responses elicited from her Google survey, in which she asked questions such as “Do you have a reliable computer and internet access for the entire term?” and “What are you most apprehensive about for this course?”


Some 97 percent of respondents replied in the affirmative about reliable technology – at least most of the time – and apprehension related to the new remote learning model was almost negligible; far more concerning to students is the challenging content and the difficulty of exams inherent in A&P II.


“I think our students are pretty game to try anything,” Burgoon said. “We are just changing the format of delivery. While our methods may change, our message remains the same.


“I actually think this will make all our classes better in the long run because when you find something that really works well, you want to keep using it.


“Working collaboratively in groups using remote technologies is something I really believe we can do and do well,” she said. “I figure if I can get my 86-year-old mother up and running on Zoom, getting my students acclimated should really be pretty easy.”


NOTES: Students across AC’s academic landscape who need assistance navigating their classes will find an abundance of tips for remote learning at


AC’s computer center – The Underground – remains accessible in the basement of the Ware Student Commons on the Washington Street Campus. Social distancing will be observed therein. Hours of operation are: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.


Additionally, AW Broadband has installed two Wi-Fi hotspots on the north portion of the Washington Street Campus – lots No. 4 and 5 – and another at AC’s Community Link at 24th and Grand, so students in those locations can access the internet for free from the comfort and safety of their vehicles.