Unsplash: Glenn Carstens-Peteres
In an email sent out by President Dr. Daria Willis, all classes for Spring quarter will be delivered online/remotely to the greatest extent possible for the entire quarter.
“This was a difficult decision. I know that for students who would prefer to learn in a classroom, this is not an ideal solution,” said Willis in a press release. The school is updating its Spring class schedule with details and information about classes which they expect to have available by 5 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 20.
After hearing of the news that Spring Quarter will be online, sophomore Jane Bekker understands the school’s decision. “I completely understand why the president made the decision to make Spring quarter online,” said Bekker. “It’s obviously not ideal, but I hope it improves the current conditions and that people take this as an opportunity to practice social distancing.” Bekker is signed up for three classes in the Spring, including English 102, Philosophy 110 and Criminal Justice 101.
According to the announcement, Chromebooks will be available beginning Apr. 6, for students who do not have a computer at home. The school is attempting to get as many laptops as possible but there will be limited availability. Also, Evcc’s library currently has wifi hotspots for checkout for students without Internet access at home. Willis also included a link from Comcast that explains how Comcast is offering people free internet access for 60 days to low-income families, free internet at Xfinity hotspots and suspending their data plan rules.
Student support services including tutoring will continue to be offered online. “We will do everything we can to help you succeed,” said Willis. “I hope that online learning provides the additional benefit of strengthening your technology skills and preparing for a workforce that is increasingly connected virtually.”
Mike Nevins, a math instructor at EvCC has already taken steps to convert his classes online. “Last summer, I spent $4,000 of my own money on a lightboard studio with the goal of creating high-quality math resources that mix video instruction and text examples,” said Nevins. He believes that with that studio, he will be able to create high-quality content at little-to-no cost to students.
Next quarter, Nevins and fellow math instructor Julian Trujillo will be working together at Nevins’s house to develop a full set of online lectures for Math 151 (Calculus I). “Between us, that will cover 4 sections of Math 151 during Spring quarter,” said Nevins. Trujillo and Nevins will begin recording lectures next week and believe they will be able to provide their students with almost as good of an experience as they would have had in a normal face-to-face class.
Nevins also thinks that the school has been a bit slow in moving to an online/hybrid instruction. “I also think that many of our school’s online classes aren’t very high quality. Many instructors rely too heavily on the resources provided by publisher textbooks,” said Nevins. He explained that he believes Spring quarter will teach all the instructors at EvCC a lot about teaching and communicating online with their students.
Some challenges Nevins is anticipating for next quarter is keeping students motivated and that students aren’t cheating on their tests. “The flexibility of online learning makes it hard for many students to stay focused and working everyday for 10 weeks,” said Nevins. “It is hard to be sure students aren’t using online resources or having a friend take their exam. From the instructors perspective, this is going to be very difficult.”
In an email last night from President Willis to the staff, she explained her reasoning for the change. After weeks of daily conference calls with the Washington State Board for Community and Technical College, the Snohomish Health District and K-12 districts it had become clear that the situation would last longer than originally anticipated.
Current EvCC student, Samuel Storme agrees with Willi’s decision. “I’ll admit it’s a gargantuan inconvenience, but I know how important following the health advisories is, and avoiding spreading the virus,” said Storme. “I would rather have online classes than have a leadership that doesn’t care about our health. So I find it comforting.”
Another student, Rachael Cangemi is optimistic with the decision. “I think it’s necessary that we all take the proper precautions to prevent spreading the virus. It’s reassuring to know that our school is taking this seriously.”
“Some classes will continue in person, using social distancing (Staying six feet away from other people) and encouraging students to stay home if they are ill,” said Willis.
Willis thanked the staff for their efforts these past few weeks, such as moving coursework online and finding a way to finish finals on schedule. “I cannot thank you enough for your flexibility during these challenging and historical times,” said Willis.
According to Willis, the school’s deans have worked together to create a continuity of operations plan to maintain students’ academic aspirations and progress despite overwhelming public health, logistical and financial challenges.
The school has also established a group to provide instructors with the best tools needed to move their course to an online/remote format. “We are working hard to identify the experiential course components that are impossible to accomplish online/remotely,” says Willis. “And reach decisions to either cancel these courses, or determine a safe method for including some limited portion of those components in the classroom.”
According to additional information via attached links in the email, the faculty will return to work on Monday, Apr. 6, 2020. That week will be devoted to professional development and class preparation. Though faculty presence on campus isn’t required, the school encourages the faculty to take advantage of face-to-face and virtual professional development opportunities.
Willis ended her announcement by encouraging students to continue their education. “We will make it through this, and you will be better prepared for your future with a degree or certificate.”
This is breaking news coverage and will be updated as we learn more.