The return to the idea of normality has divided people between those who prefer the then and the now. It shows up in the workforce that as people return to the office they are looking for remote or hybrid forms of employment, and with rising gas prices weighing on commuters, alternatives to the “norm” are needed now more than ever.
When it comes to higher education, particularly at the community college level, students look forward to learning skills they are passionate about. However, they want to do it their way.
“I don’t see our students ever going back to the one-size-fits-all approach they’ve become accustomed to in our colleges,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of California Community College (CCC). EdSource.
So much has changed in the last two years that it’s not feasible to expect people to fall back on what worked before. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, priorities and routines have changed for many people.
So why does it feel like students were encouraged to consider the unity option of in-person learning as the only option?
Orange Coast College currently offers 337 online courses, 193 hybrid courses and 580 (in person) lecture and discussion courses. While these are better than OCC’s tiny pre-pandemic offerings of 91 online courses and 50 hybrid courses compared to the 1,297 classroom courses offered in fall 2019, they need improvement. For every face-to-face class offered, there should also be an online or hybrid option.
Going back to what worked before means willingly leaving behind students who have found success with online learning during the pandemic. Colleges can encourage students to return to campus classrooms, but the pandemic has shown that there are other learning options that are more convenient and accessible for students.
For this reason, the Coast Report editorial board believes that OCC should offer permanent online courses for all majors, degrees and certificates offered.
Some students enjoy face-to-face learning because they can interact face-to-face with teachers and easily collaborate with other students. Because the shift to distance learning was sudden and rapid at the start of the pandemic, educators who had never previously taught online struggled with the new platforms. Retaining information from courses that benefit from more hands-on learning became a challenge for students.
In a survey conducted by Digital Promise and Langer Research Associates in 2020, 42% of 1,008 undergraduate students said Staying motivated was a big problem for them with online lessons.
On the other hand, a survey conducted in October 2021 revealed that Chancellery of the CCC asked 400 prospective students about their preferred learning method. More than half of them preferred some form of hybrid education, 27% preferred full online education and 18% preferred full classroom training. The reason given by students of all ethnic demographics who preferred hybrid and online learning was the flexibility it gave.
Hybrid and online learning also minimizes scheduling conflicts that students experience between their jobs and classes. In the same study by Digital Promise and Langer Research Associates, 68% of students had no problem balancing online classes and work hours. Since more than 40% of the California Community College system’s students are working adults who are 25 or older. This is beneficial not only for them, but also for students who care for children, have intellectual and physical disabilities, and are struggling with their mental health.
The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted community college enrollment rates, and much of that cannot be mitigated by colleges. For example, CalMatters attributes the decline to labor shortages and employers Hiring people above minimum wage for jobs that typically do not require college education.
However, more opportunities to learn from home could have a positive impact on enrollment numbers and help students successfully and timely complete their education.
The California Community Colleges Student Senate (SSCCC) passed a statewide resolution in 2020 calling for districts across the state to expand online offerings. Citing the educational barriers created by traditional formats and class schedules, SSCCC required that for any general education or degree requirement at least one course is offered in an online format.
OCC is recognized as one of the top transfer community colleges in the state. As of the 2019 course catalogue, the college offers 68 majors, 100 degrees and 150 certificates. OCC employs faculty who are successful and well known in their fields. Correspondence courses should be an option for students to learn from some of the best in their respective majors.
It has been determined that distance learning is not for everyone, however it should be an option for students wishing to pursue and earn the degree of their choice. Online courses allow students to choose what best suits their needs. The importance, quality and access to education should not be reduced to this complex notion of ‘normal’. It needs to evolve as education should.
The Coast Report Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief and the Section Editors. A member of the editorial board writes the editorial, and it rotates throughout the semester.
Editorial topics are proposed by all board members and a single topic is chosen for each editorial. Each editorial member votes on their position on the selected topic and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a tie for the first vote, the members of the editorial team continue to discuss and justify their first vote. A second vote is then taken and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a second tie, the editorial position is determined at the Editor-in-Chief’s discretion.