Santa Clara County Community College Students Prefer Online Classes

By Lorraine Gabbert, San Jose

February 9, 2022

Community colleges in Santa Clara County are scrambling to offer late-start classes and online learning after not hearing what students wanted.

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Professors at many of these schools warned the administration that school surveys showed students were not ready to return to campus. Online classes had waiting lists, while in-person classes had to be canceled due to low attendance. In a last-minute effort to retain students, the district administration of San Jose-Evergreen Community College and other districts converted canceled classes to online and hybrid classes.

Philip Hu, executive director of the San Jose-Evergreen Teachers’ Federation, said results from a November student survey showed a 79% preference for online classes.

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“The in-person classes clearly haven’t worked out very well with the students,” he told San José Spotlight. “Our faculty is increasingly frustrated with the board’s entrenched position that goes against what students want.”

Hu said many in-person classes have been canceled for the spring semester, disrupting student education as well as faculty income. Part-time faculty take a significant financial hit when classes are cancelled, he said.

Alex Do, a student at Evergreen Valley College, said online classes provide flexibility for her to work. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Evergreen Valley College faculty member David Hendricks said three of his five classes were canceled due to low enrollment. One of them has been replaced by a late start online course.

“Students want options,” he said at a school board meeting on Tuesday. “We need to have those options available.”

Ryan Brown, district spokesperson for San Jose-Evergreen Community College, said the administration is trying to meet the needs, health and safety of all students, employees and faculty. “The administration has had ongoing conversations with wrongdoers, listening to students and probing students,” he said.

Brown said a number of classes have been canceled or moved online due to low enrollment; 123 classes were canceled at Evergreen Valley College and 138 at San Jose City College. Some moved online or received late start dates.

Elton Bangu, a student at San Jose City College, said if you don’t understand something, the teacher can offer better help in person than online. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Some students, like EVC student Alex Do, appreciate having online and in-person classes. She needed both options because she works and online classes offer more flexibility.

San Jose City College student Elton Bangu favors in-person learning because teachers can help students more in-person.

“If you don’t understand what’s going on, you can ask the professor and he can show you what you did wrong,” he told San José Spotlight.

Raul Rodríguez, acting district chancellor of San Jose–Evergreen Community College and San José Spotlight columnist, said at Tuesday’s meeting that it’s difficult to balance employee and student safety while ensuring progress. students in their studies. He said the district is trying to find the right mix of in-person, online and hybrid classes.

“What is the right amount? ” he said. “We don’t know yet. Many other colleges are in the same boat, we’re all trying to figure it out.”

About 7,090 students are enrolled at Evergreen Valley College and 6,749 at San Jose City College.

Affect Morale

Gavilan College, with an enrollment of around 4,222 students, also aimed to have more in-person classes.

Robert Overson, president of the Gavilan College Faculty Association, said school superintendent Kathleen Rose has set a goal of having 50-60% in-person classes.

Faculty pushed back after student surveys showed the majority wanted online classes, Overson said. Professors have asked for more online classes or a lower enrollment threshold, but have mostly been turned down, he said. Although some courses have moved online, others have been cancelled.

“It affected faculty morale,” Overson told San Jose Spotlight.

The winter term at Foothill and De Anza colleges began on January 3 with just over 30% of classes in person. Foothill plans to increase this percentage to 40% in the spring.

Foothill College has an enrollment of around 22,000 students and De Anza College has an enrollment of around 38,000.

The district administration and teachers have reached an agreement on in-person teaching, said Tim Shively, president of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Teachers’ Association. He said that although it came at the last minute, the administration said that if teachers were not comfortable returning in person, they could work online until January.

“A lot of professors were balking given the omicron situation,” he said. “And to their credit, the district has shown some flexibility.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Foothill College had 50% of its classes online, spokesperson Simon Pennington said.

“Remote learning, however convenient, doesn’t work for all students,” Pennington said. “We have to strike a balance between safety and sanity… Everyone is trying to do what they think is best.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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