Mendocino College term set to start – Ukiah Daily Journal - Freelance Rack

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Mendocino College term set to start – Ukiah Daily Journal

The fall semester at Mendocino College begins on Aug. 17 and in following the trend set by many colleges throughout the United States, the shift has been made to remote online learning for the safety of students to prevent contagion of the novel coronavirus.

“Through  a great deal of hard work, our faculty has been remarkably creative in converting their classes,” says Janelle Meyers Bird, Director of Community Relations and Communication.

Faculty and staff usually build the schedule of classes for the semester at the beginning of the previous one; in January, planning was well underway for the fall. With the onset of COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic, all of that had to be redesigned.

“For the summer and fall, we developed an online schedule; we did not take every class and put it online as we did half way through the spring semester when COVID-19 shut everything down,” says Debra Polak, Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Fall classes will be strictly online with some that including minimal face-to-face meetings. For each academic discipline that requires in-person teaching, the lessons have been structured to meet the specific needs of the course.

Full time faculty and members of the administrative team have looked at every class, at every section, to create the new schedule.

“When it is determined that a class cannot meet its student learning outcomes without face-to-face meetings, we have figured out how to set them up,” she says.

For students in the nursing and physical therapy assistant programs—those disciplines that have external accrediting agencies with very particular requirements about clinical and lab requirements—there will be on campus class meetings so that students will be qualified upon completion of the course.

Small groups will work in large rooms with adequate social distancing. Those in the physical therapy program who are required to do hands on work will be wearing masks and sometimes face shields, as well. Already established hygiene protocols will remain in place.

Labster, a company that has developed fully interactive advanced lab simulations, will be used by most of the science labs allowing students to complete their work at home; for higher level classes, such as organic chemistry, there will be in-person labs throughout the semester in groups of 4 limited to one-hour sessions.

“They are learning to be lab scientists and need the actual experience of working in one; they cannot do all of that on Labster,” says Polak.

Similarly, for the culinary arts program, work in the kitchen will be limited to small groups for short periods of time.

Art classes will be online with most classes still being offered. Ceramics will be hybrid with small groups showing up for an hour once a week where students will be able to bring their work in for firing and receive instruction and evaluation. The college will be loaning out wheels for those who need them and hand building remains an option. Classes will take place indoors and outdoors around the ceramic studio and attendance is voluntary.

Normally, a class like Freshman English, in high demand because everyone is required to take it, is offered in multiple sections in Ukiah, with two on the coast, at least one in Willits, one in Round Valley and two or three in Lake County. Classes are available in the day and the evening; many of them run with minimum enrollment.

However, with online classes where the system is asynchronous, students can do their work at any time and there will be fewer sections with classes filling as students enroll.

Summer enrollment is consistent with previous years and with the fall schedule now online, the expectation is that classes will soon start filling up.

“What we’re hearing statewide anecdotally is that students who had decided to start at a 4-year university may now choose to attend locally. They are not going to be able to live in a dormitory and will have to take classes online wherever they go; and it’s a much better deal to start at a community college,” says Polak.

“When the economy goes down and unemployment goes up, the natural trend is for college enrollment to go up, especially at community colleges,” adds Meyers Bird.

Theater classes will be taught online with a focus on radio show format for the performance class.

No group instrumental classes will take place—symphonic band, symphonic orchestra, jazz band—but faculty is working to remediate that for students who require those classes for a degree.

Voice and individual instrumental classes such as piano and guitar will be taught online and with Zoom.

Automotive and agricultural classes will be taught in a hybrid manner, online and with limited face-to-face lessons.

Mendocino College utilizes Canvas, a learning management platform that every faculty member has previously had access to and that all will now use to design their courses.

Those teachers who have not yet taught online have gone through a 4-week training for best teaching practices with using the technology.

“We are required by state and federal law to provide regular and effective contact between teacher and student,” says Polak.

The Canvas portal set up for each class provides a multi-faceted interactive learning experience with the opportunity for students to interrelate with and receive feedback from the teacher and other students.

Teachers are able to post assignments, lectures and prompts;  provide links to videos, TED Talks and other learning resources; create discussion boards; provide immediate feedback; create practice problems and tests; and post grades.

For those who thrive in the online environment, it is a boon and for those who do not consider it their cup of tea, assistance will be available.

“We will be providing support for both faculty and students, helping them to make the pivot,” says Polak.

All support services continue to be available as well as online tutoring. Resources for learning support availability will be increased; and teachers will be offering Zoom office hours.

“If you don’t think you have what you need for an online class, come talk to us. We have limited face-to-face hours at the library and resource centers including the disability resource center or you can call us,” says Meyers Bird.

Chrome books will be lent out and the college has boosted its Wi-Fi at every location so people can access it outside the campuses and in the parking lots.

“We want to help students be able to navigate our online courses and we are trying to address their needs and help them to be successful,” says Polak.

The schedule is set; it’s time to register.

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