Fredrik Finney-Jordet/The Broadside
Central Oregon Community College will maintain its online-learning format in the spring term, according to a post published on its COVID-19 Updates webpage in December. COCC leadership and College President Laurie Chesley have “made the first of our decisions about what to expect at COCC for the Spring 2021 term,” the update read. “The College will largely maintain our current operational approach through the Spring term.”
According to Jennifer Kovitz, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations at COCC, the remote learning model for the spring term will be no different from the one used now, with around 80% of classes being remote, online, and hybrid. However, the college “widens its in-person course offerings to include some classes that cannot be taught as effectively in a remote environment” for winter and spring terms, said Kovitz in an interview.
When asked whether there is any chance that COCC will return to in-person classes should the pandemic improve, Kovitz said that the college would consider options allowed by health guidelines: “if local, state, and national guidelines all offer a roadmap to a broader reopening sooner than expected, the College’s leadership will, of course, reevaluate reopening plans.”
The remote learning model being maintained for the spring term is disappointing to students who struggle with it or prefer in-person classes. “It’s inconvenient,” said Chris, a COCC student, in an interview. Spring term, especially, “sucked,” Chris said. While he didn’t experience too many issues in the fall, the spring term “didn’t make me trust the ability to actually be taught well.” Now that the next term will be online, Chris is reconsidering class choices and removing classes he prefers not to take remotely.
Kieran Kentley, a University of New Mexico student taking classes at COCC during winter term, isn’t looking forward to an online spring term. “I see the purpose of it,” said Kentley. “I see the health benefit as well, but I think it’s inconvenient.”
Neither student blames the college for having to move to remote learning. “I don’t blame COCC,” said Chris, “I’m not smart enough to figure out a better way to do it.” Kentley said that COCC has “a fairly appropriate response to the pandemic,” but hopes that if the need for remote learning continues into the fall term, more is done to improve remote advising and other services.
Many teachers are not looking forward to another online term either. Fleur Prade, a foreign language professor with COCC, said it was disappointing to hear that the next term would have to be online. “As a foreign language teacher, I was saddened,” Prade said in an interview. “It’s so much harder to teach a foreign language through Zoom. There’s a lack of interaction.”
Prade said that there were difficulties conducting remote learning in the fall. Sometimes sharing screen doesn’t work, sometimes Zoom freezes, and often, students’ microphones and cameras are off. “In a classroom, a student can concentrate more on the lesson that’s being taught,” Prade said. With online instruction, “it’s not two-way communication. I’m having to pick on students instead of students volunteering.”
Prade said she and other language teachers have had to be more lenient with grading work, because students would frequently have issues with technology, sometimes not seeing assigned work on Blackboard or Duolingo, or not receiving crucial emails. “I have made it not affect students’ grades,” Prade said. “I gave extensions that I normally, maybe, would not have done.”
Going forward into spring term, Prade is especially worried about the possibility of students getting frustrated to the point of giving up. “What I need to do this term is get students to understand that they can talk to me,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s faculty’s job, but I might try to touch base more with students, to see if I can at least listen to them…I don’t want them to fall behind and give up.”
Through the difficulties of online learning, Prade said, COCC has offered much help with their E-Learning Department. However, she wishes students were better informed of available resources. “I wish…students knew better the resources they have available,” she said. “I feel like they’re putting a lot on the faculty to communicate to students the resources that they have.”
Prade noted that remote learning can a struggle for everyone. “I understand it’s difficult for students. I think all teachers do, and I think we all try,” Prade said. If students are willing to communicate with staff, she said, staff is willing to communicate with students. “A lot of us…we’re new to Zoom, we’re new to all this technology. We’re also overwhelmed and new to that.”
Information on getting ready for remote learning can be found on COCC’s “Getting Technology Ready” page for students on the college’s website.