BC hosts an Q&A panel about online education

Aubrianna Martinez, Reporter

Bakersfield College hosted an Q&A webinar called “A Candid Conversation About Online Education in the Age of COVID-19”to cover student’s questions related to the college’s shift to online learning on March 10.

Faculty members on the panel ranged across specialties; Professor Matt Jones from the technology department, Professor Erica Menchaca of education who previously had experience teaching in distance education, Dr. Nicky Damania who serves as the Director of Student Life, and vice-president of BC’s student government, Emma McNellis.

Q: When will in-person classes resume? And when will the campus open fully?

“Remember we’re still under the tiers and guidance of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the governor so we have to be within the frame of that and making sure it’s not Bakersfield College making that decision.  It’s an informed decision to keep our community safe,” Damania explained.

He adds, “I may say this now and in two weeks it might be completely different, but right now we’re looking at opening more courses by fall of 2021.”

When asked later if all face-to-face instructors and students are required to be vaccinated Damania answered that the school is not at this time planning to require the vaccination, but is encouraging those able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to get it.

Q: Will grades be curved this semester?

“There isn’t a standard approach [to grading] right now. The faculty haven’t decided on one way to grade, there is what is called academic freedom in certain areas and grades for different things,” Menchaca explained.

“I can speak personally for my grading I am keeping the same standards and rigor of the course but what I am doing is being more graceful on terms of due dates,” she elaborated.

“I am working to be flexible with students but what I encourage is that if you’re concerned if you’re having problems approach the faculty, make them aware of it.  I know that in most of the workshops we offer and training that we offer to faculty one thing we encourage is flexibility with students during this time so if you have concerns don’t hesitate to reach out to your professor,” Jones informed.

Q: What is BC doing to improve and develop further to help what we currently offer at BC?

“One of our big study tools is NetTutor that’s a 24 hour, seven days a week kind of tutoring assistance in various different subjects and topics. […] We also have the Writing Center, it’s completely online,” Damania stated.

Q: What has been the biggest obstacles to transitioning to the online format?

Menchaca explained that “it was the transition into working from home and figuring out that home life, work balance and routine. I also didn’t realize how much just like driving to and work helped or walking around. I sit so much more now that I am working from home but before I would walk between classes, between meetings.

“I think those have been kind of the biggest transitions figuring out how to balance everything and not have everything go into each other,” she surmises.

Jones added, “One of the things that was a huge challenge was when people have well-defined practices and delivering things in a face-to-face environment and then trying to make everything that they deliver face-to-face, the activities, the assignments, move to online.”

Q: What do you hope would be a lasting impact as a result of online education in the age of COVID-19?

McNellis explained that through her role in student government she oversees meetings with students from across the Central Valley which requires a fair bit of travel when they took place in person.

Now that their meetings are online interested parties can join more easily, McNellis expressed the benefits, “that ability to reach such a huge amount of people is a really cool way of using this online modality to our advantage, and I do really hope that we keep taking advantage of that side of this.”

Panelists emphasized throughout the webinar for students with questions or who need resources go to sites such as the Renegade Hub and the BC Discord server.