As the fall semester comes to an end, students are beginning to enroll into spring semester courses. Pierce College is offering a variety of ways for students to learn.
In-person, online, hybrid and dual-delivery classes are all expected to be available for students to accommodate those who are unable to submit vaccination proof, have travel issues or may have other restrictions.
Hybrid classes were introduced during the school’s transition because of the pandemic. Students were provided the opportunity to split the class and come partially in person and partially online.
Interim President Ara Aguiar said these options provide students, faculty, and staff flexibility with their schedules.
“You’ve got to experiment, be open to trying things out,” Aguiar said. “The key is to serve 40 students with the same faculty member, and the methodology of how it’s delivered is going to be up to the student and working with the faculty member.”
Dual-delivery is a new system that faculty and staff are implementing starting in the spring semester. It provides students the option to attend an online or an in-person class, both under the same professor.
The catch? Students who choose to sign-up for the online course are required to stay online, while those who selected an in-person class are able to fluctuate, depending on the size of the class and the professor’s course.
With enrollment at Pierce dropping, Psychology instructor Jennifer Moses said dual-delivery could help motivate students to attend classes.
“The district I think is around 73% of historic enrollment right now, 86,000 out of 108,000 capacity,” Moses said. “I have found students to be much more adaptable in terms of changing modalities. I think the dual-delivery is a great pilot.”
Aguiar said the goal is to have an even split of students doing in-person and online classes.
“The new memorandum of understanding with the faculty guild has limited the campus classes to 28 students,” Aguiar said. “We are looking into a model where we could expand the class up to 40, and that expansion would be online synchronous.”
The transition from in-person to online classes at the beginning of the pandemic enabled Pierce to implement new technology within the classroom, including the OWL.
An OWL is a camera, microphone and speaker combined into a single device to provide a 360–degree angle of the classroom. This device would allow students joining class online to feel further involved and present during lectures and meeting times.
Distance Education Coordinator Wendy Bass said the OWL has been Pierce’s first experiment implementing more technology to help with dual-delivery classes.
“It’s supposed to make it a bit more seamless and more about your teaching, and not feeling like you have to stand in a certain spot,” Bass said. “We have professors that had to go online and weren’t equipped for those technology components. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible so they can focus on their content and not so much on the design of the course.”
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) 1521 Chapter President Brian Walsh said implementing technology as a component of classroom instruction may make online classes more efficient and convenient for students and staff.
“What we want to do with this technology is to create another option so students can see what works best for them and their learning style,” Walsh said. “I think once it becomes clear to our student population and community, technology is going to be here to stay.”
Chair of Distance Education and Instructional Technology Committee Clay Gediman said he hopes to see an enrollment increase because of different options for classroom instruction.
“It’s a retention thing,” Gediman said. “I hear from students that they have to drop classes because they can’t make a certain time due to transportation or other obligations, and I think this will actually help them. I think making it flexible for students will help, and we’re really interested in students’ feedback.”
Transitioning to online and in-person can be difficult for students who have already adapted to a new learning style—or who haven’t adapted at all.
Walsh said he thinks providing students, faculty and staff different options for classroom instruction will help strengthen Pierce’s efforts, enrollment and environment.
“I hope we’re ushering in the future here,” Walsh said. “I think that crisis yields opportunity, and this pandemic has forced us to think elastically about how we do things. Students are now looking for new and innovative ways to be educated, and I don’t see this hurting us at all, which is why I’m so excited.”
Hyflex: An older system of simultaneous in-person and online classes.
Dual-delivery: Same system as hyflex but those who have signed up for online classes need to stay online due to the required proof of vaccination (students online do not submit the proof, therefore cannot attend class on campus).
Hybrid: The professor selects a day or days within the week the class will meet both online and in person. (it splits the class meetings methods by the professor’s choice).