Alexis Garcia – CO-Online Social Media Manager
With all the tragedy and uncertainty that has come with the Coronavirus pandemic, Pierce College has done enough to make sure students have a good eLearning experience and the necessary resources available to do well inside and outside of the virtual classroom.
After having to abruptly switch to online courses at the end of winter quarter 2020, the Pierce College administration worked to make classes accessible for all students. Approximately 450 Chromebooks and over 200 WiFi hotspots were distributed to students in need after the initial closure of Pierce College campuses.
More items were made available to Pierce College students in May 2020 with the Coronavirus aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The purpose of this act is to supply students with the essential needs to do well in class. The application for the act features 12 areas students can apply to receive help in. Items like laptops, desks, books and health/wellness equipment are available for students to request through the CARES Act.
The Pierce College office of eLearning has transferred almost every resource they can to the online format.
Peer Academic Support Services (PASS) is a new feature added for students to easily access tutoring and mentoring. PASS can be added to a student’s Canvas homepage and from there they can choose from the long list of classes available where they need help in and receive help from tutors.
Alongside PASS, the tutoring center, writing center and technology support group have also been made available through the Canvas support portal.
The decision to not require new websites and to stick with Canvas was a good decision made by the eLearning team. Canvas is the most common online application used at Pierce College, so choosing to stick with it eliminates problems that arise when students don’t know how to work with new applications they may not be familiar with.
Pierce College’s administration also had the student’s interest in mind with their decision to recommend professors not have synchronous classes like many other schools have done. Although this decision may be negative for some students, it accommodates those who may have busy schedules and can’t make required class times.
Students feeling frustrated with issues like financial aid troubles, technical difficulties and lack of hands-on learning are understandable and completely valid, however, having to operate completely online while dealing with a deadly pandemic would be trying for any school. The switch to online has been tough for everyone, so the need to be understanding during this time is something everyone should consider.
No matter how good or bad a school is, improvements and upgrades are always needed and expected. The Pierce College eLearning team has been consistently improving their resources for students, working unimaginable hours to make sure students have what they need.
It’s perfectly normal to want and expect consistent improvements within your school, however, everyone should recognize where effort and hard work has been put in enough.
Elissa Blankenship – CO-Online Social Media Manager
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has affected many lives and has required students and faculty alike to adapt to the eLearning format. Just like any other college right now, Pierce College has room for improvement.
Professors who didn’t operate and organize their classes on Canvas before remote learning began had to change the structure of their courses and provide accommodations for students. Students faced challenges with the availability of technology and resources caused by the COVID-19 lockdown, with some mentioning they felt disconnected to the college.
Students with financial concerns and those that lack the necessary technology or resources needed for a proper learning environment were among the students that detailed their struggles.
While the college funded WiFi hotspots, Chromebooks and other technologies to be rented through the library, students still felt limited in their ability to complete work. The lack of resources at home created a greater student need which couldn’t be solved through using Zoom exclusively. The computer labs at Fort Steilacoom and Puyallup wouldn’t open up again until months after the beginning of the pandemic, and library material is only available via curbside pickup.
The office of eLearning, the writing center, the tutoring center and the Student Technology Assistance Team (STAT) are a few of the now online resources currently available for Pierce College students. More public announcements need to occur on various platforms to advertise lesser-known resources or programs to students, considering that campus closures contribute to inhibiting access to information.
Not all students are able to attend STAT meetings or ask for assistance due to personal reasons or availability concerns. A potential solution to this issue would be increased communication between the college, student advisors and students.
The Financial Aid department is an important component of Pierce College which saw significant increases in call volume, making it harder for students to obtain their loans, scholarships or financial assistance. Students voiced their concerns about the issues this brought to their eLearning environment, creating stress about tuition and fees.
Textbooks or other expensive materials are harder to come by, especially for students dealing with prolonged financial stress brought on by the pandemic and economic lockdown.
Many professors have become creative in the ways they adapt to being completely online, such as taking the time to set up course modules and informational lectures. Additionally, professors work with the Access and Disability Services department to work on inclusivity and accessibility issues. Others were not so available for one-on-one discussions or office hours with students.
Some courses offered online continue to feel disorganized, whether it be an error on behalf of the professor or a potential lack of connection to the right guidelines for eLearning. Courses that require more hands-on learning would have students facing unfortunate circumstances, making it harder for them to complete their credits.
Though Pierce College has tried to help sustain a proper learning experience from home in the complicated face of a pandemic, additional support could be provided to maximize student success.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost