Evaluating how online classes are run

Online courses are beneficial to students who can’t physically attend a college class, but some instructors are worried that the lack of interpersonal communication may affect student success rates.

During the Academic Senate meeting on Monday, Feb.12, members discussed potential solutions for issues affecting Pierce College, such as the financial budget and online course teaching.

One debated issue was the quality of education brought to students by professors who teach courses online.

Distance Education Coordinator Wendy Bass said she had concerns about the online courses and if the teaching style allows students to gain success in future educational endeavors.

“When you talk about their success rate being high, it is because they are not teaching,” Bass said. “I would like to know how many of those students who go on to the next level are passing.”

The goal of the discussion was to curtail online instructors from exploiting the educational system for students. Some members of the committee said by exploiting the system students are cheated out of a meaningful and genuine education.

Tackling the issue at hand and improving the education of students is what Academic Senate Treasurer Angela Belden hopes to achieve.

“Anytime we focus on the quality of education, we are benefiting our students and that is really why we are all here,” Belden said.

The Academic Senate suggested these solutions: establishing a requirement for instructors to take an additional course to obtain certification for online teaching and requiring instructors to fill a self-examination sheet that would be made public.

At least four members of faculty strongly felt that the survey could be used against them if they marked themselves down, even if they were performing their jobs properly and successfully.

Some faculty and staff said the reason for lower student success rates is due to a lack of experience in online teaching. However, Margarita Pillado, the second Vice President of Curriculum, said there isn’t sufficient data to mark teachers as the scapegoats.

“I strongly do not think so. I believe low student success rates may be because we do not remove students from classes who are inactive,” she said.

Bass said money is paid back to the Financial Aid offices due to an excessive amount of inactive students, as well as low student success rates from Southwest College, could reach substantial levels that could bankrupt the entire Los Angeles Community College District.  

The budget provided to Pierce College by the district is enough to pay the salaries of faculty and staff, according to Belden. Pierce College cannot afford to pay the dues that could accumulate as a result of inactive students impacting the student success rate.

The Academic Senate holds meetings every other week. The next meeting will be Monday, Feb. 26, at 2:15 p.m. in the Faculty and Staff Resource Center.