Complete that degree

It might be a full-time job or childcare responsibilities, but whatever the reason some students can’t make it to campus. However, there are state and college initiatives that may help students gain certification remotely.  

Gov. Jerry Brown made a proposal last month to have a fully online community college by fall 2019. The $120 million budget proposal is said to benefit 2.5 million adults between ages 25 and 34 who can’t physically attend college, according to the Los Angeles Times.  

Eighty percent of Pierce students are enrolled part time. Of that percentage, two thirds work full time or part time, Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters said. Because a large percentage also have extracurricular activities, he said, the college needs to offer different opportunities to help them succeed.

“One of the needs that we have is, what can we do to service students? Do we have the support services online to help students be successful? Is there online tutoring for an online class, are there financial aid services online, special services,” Dixon-Peters said. “In some areas we are wonderfully prepared. Can we go above and beyond that? Absolutely.”

Some instructors and departments have expressed concerns about having general education classes, such as math and English, fully online, stating that a classroom setting is needed to teach the course materials.

“Specifically in the English Department, we have seen that hybrid classes can be more challenging for students because they cannot receive immediate feedback from their instructors or have that interpersonal communication with their peers,” said Chair of the English Department Donna Accardo.  “We have found that students succeed better in a face-to-face environment.”  

However, Accardo said there is a growing desire and need for students who can’t physically come on campus and take classes.

Distance Education Coordinator Wendy Bass said that Pierce College is behind other colleges when it comes to online education.  

“We don’t just want to throw a class online to put a class online. We want to have a lot of student / instructor contact, we want the students to be engaged, we want there to be discussion, and robust learning,” Bass said.

Bass said IGETC is not officially online yet, but the goal is to be able provide them all digitally. Some departments don’t have classes online, and though they can’t force departments to offer those courses, Bass said they encourage them.

Dixon-Peters said that a fully online college would have to provide all the resources a student has available on campus, including the social interaction with peers.

“When I am on campus, I know I can hang out with friends in the quand, connect and rejuvenate before class,” Dixon-Peters said. “Social media and online, it’s a little different. How does social and online presence play into a safe, supportive and learning environment for students?”

Bass said she incorporates written discussion and interaction between her students in her online courses. She said these methods allow shy students to participate in class.

“Online classes open up different opportunities for different students with different personality types. It gives our quieter students an opportunity to be equally heard,” Bass said.

Another concern teachers have is that online courses may give students the opportunity to cheat on tests. Bass addresses this by citing Proctorial, a test-taking service that monitors students as they take exams remotely on a computer.

Bass said that Pierce offers class types including: traditional, online and hybrid—a variety that students can choose to best suit their lives.

“Online education isn’t for everybody, some students can be very successful, and some need the face-to-face, so I like that we offer both. I would never say that I prefer one over the other,” Bass said.