On April 24, Interim President Sandra Fowler-Hill announced Clark will remain online until Winter quarter. The decision to stay online for that length of time was made to avoid the uncertainty of this quarter. The college sent out an email to students March 13, informing students that Spring quarter would be online-only. By that time, many students had enrolled in face-to-face classes.
Kelly Love, spokeswoman for the college, agrees with the decision to remain online-only. “This has been a really difficult decision to arrive at. There are a few variables that went into the decision: registration for Summer and Fall begin in early May. Instructors are already making plans for classes they will have Fall quarter,”
Love said instructors need to know if they are teaching in person or online. Instructors are contracted until the summer and won’t have the time to make last minute changes to their classes.
“Do we wait until the first of Sept. to make a decision and then do the same thing we had to do in Spring quarter? This was to quickly convert 2,300 classes,” Love said. “Or do we make plans for Fall quarter, listening to the CDC, making our best determinations from the State Board of Community Colleges. It is highly likely that there will be some form of social distancing required, possibly for months to come.”
In her email to Clark students, Fowler-Hill said, “I know one of the most difficult aspects of the current situation we all find ourselves in, is the uncertainty. When will things go back to “business as usual”? How do you plan for the future when the future has so many unpredictable variables?”
Love said making the decision now would make remaining online less daunting to students since they will be more prepared than they were this quarter. Having to think far ahead is a reality of the coronavirus and waiting a few more weeks would make changes harder on students. Love predicted that many innovative ways to help students may result from not being able to be face-to-face.
“I don’t know how we get there, but what I saw the college do in three weeks time getting ready for Spring quarter, it is just remarkable,” Love said, “We’ll look back on that and say ‘I can’t believe we all did that’. I don’t even have words for it.”
Nicolas Strappazon, a Clark Running Start sophomore, said taking only online classes isn’t uncharted territory for himself. He had taken online classes while doing filmwork in India. He said taking math online is difficult because he learns best in a classroom with a more animated math teacher talking him through new principals. The course subscription the class uses has monotone YouTube videos explaining concepts.
“Every term has some complications,” Strappazon said, “That’s not to say I won’t have more complications this term, that this will be the only complication, but I’d say, all in all, it’s just something we need to adapt to. That I need to adapt to to get through my last term and hopefully it isn’t something that we will have to feel the effects of for multiple terms.”
Strappazon agreed with Clark’s decision to stay online. “My parents are medical providers and if we weren’t all sent home, or if there wasn’t an opt out option to stay home then I probably wouldn’t have been able to continue my education this term. I live with them, so I have to think about my exposure to them as well as their exposure to me,”
“I think going all online was probably the only course of action to keep everyone safe. It just is what it is,” Strappazon said.
“The teachers who are taking students’ vexations and concerns seriously are really the teachers that I find myself wanting to work harder for their classes,” Strappazon said, “Some teachers are wanting to meet their students’ needs for this term.”
“Hopefully this will just be a single, isolated event where we all have to struggle and scrape through and chart the territory for ourselves,” Strappazon said.
“I want to urge you to continue your educational journeys,” Fowler-Hill said, “Right now, you are working toward a better future for yourselves, your families, and your communities. That has not changed with COVID-19, and neither has our commitment here at the college to be with you at every point along that journey. This may not be the college experience any of us asked for, but we can do it, so long as we do it together.”
“This is the students’ world that we are inheriting. How do we help our students succeed, achieve and make it through this world, knowing that the world has changed?” Love said. “The college has over 400 employees and 600 faculty. The only reason they are there is their passion for students. I mean, that’s why they exist. They love students.”