By Sonny Tapia
The first student leadership roundtable covered the status of the Los Angeles Community College District financially and educationally through remote learning.
Friday, the LACCD Chancellor, Francisco Rodriguez, reminded students that the choice to return to on-campus classes is under the jurisdiction of the Public Health Department.
Even though some classes are returning to on-campus, they were approved previously by the Public Health Department.
Each college also has an incident command team that is in contact with the Public Health Department to continuously update the board about any changes to protocols in the county.
In terms of the budget, Rodriguez said, “In particular, we are stable. We are using our finances and savings account from our previous years that we saved toward the right kinds of areas.”
Most of the budget has gone toward technology for campuses.
“In the last seven months we have spent roughly $20 million on securing technology,” Rodriguez said.
The instability of the economy has shaken businesses, but Rodriguez said that the LACCD has not been widely impacted by the COVID-19 environment.
“Frankly we are worried about the following year and the next year if the economy does not pick up and the government funding does not increase,” Rodriguez said.
Enrollment has been down by 10% in LACCD and 85% of enrollment has been down in all California community colleges due to the pandemic.
The district expects to have a recovery in enrollment through the high school seniors in the surrounding areas and school districts along with adult classes being initiated.
The College Promise Grant, which ensures free tuition to a LACCD college campus for the first two years out of high school as a full time student, is still being entirely funded by the district.
“We are still guaranteeing free tuition for the first two years of college, priority registration and free Chromebooks for our programs including the late start College Promise Grant,” Rodriguez said.
Later in the roundtable, LACCD Vice Chancellor Ryan Cornner spoke about the transition from in-person to online courses.
He said 10,000 courses were moved to online when the pandemic hit. The district started with 18% of classes online and ended with 99% online.
More than half of all faculty in LACCD are certified in online teaching although the training was not made mandatory.
“There were about 1,800 faculty members certified, before COVID-19, in online teaching. This was all done voluntarily by the faculty and we dedicated about $1.6 million to training faculty about online pedagogy,” Cornner said.
Cornner said that it was a part of the negotiation in the collective bargaining agreement made with the teachers union.
“For the software needed in classes, such as photography courses, the district has had to pay over $250,000 for six months of use,” Cornner said.
Cornner said that there has been about $2 million spent on software alone just for the fall semester
Cornner reviewed the highlights of a memo sent out to faculty about the transition from in-person meetings to online including codes of conduct.
Professors are not allowed to record any meeting without informing students before doing so, nor are they allowed to force students to turn on their camera.
“If the purpose of the recording is to show the material after the meeting and it is not to see you, you should not be forced to show your face on camera. We understand that students live in households and environments that are busy,” Cornner said.
“We as educators need to really consider the purpose of the recording and not just demand students to turn on the student’s cameras.”
There is a continuous improvement in student services such as counseling and information on the student information system.
Cranium Cafe, an online help desk, has given the district a better route for students to contact counselors about concerns and sessions.
Cornner also spoke about FreshDesk and FreshCaller and how it is being used on campuses. Cornner said the virtual campus help desk is for students to either email or call to ask any questions students have about the operations of campus.
Equipment for students is overseen by LACCD Chief Information Officer and Vice Chancellor of Information Technology, Carmen Lidz.
She said, “For the fall, we have met our commitment and continue to be committed to our College Promise students by delivering 4,800 devices and are receiving 16,971 devices for non-promise students.”
There are still some delays in getting the devices, but the district is working to get them out to the students in need.
For homeless students, LACCD is working with partners to revamp parks as hotspots for internet connectivity if the students cannot get any other form of internet.
“We encourage our students to reach out and get in contact with their college’s information centers to get help and ask any questions they may have regarding equipment and internet access,” Lidz said.
The Director of the Center for Academic Success at Los Angeles Pierce College Crystal Kiekel spoke about the importance of peer learning assistance available to students through online learning.
LACCD colleges are offering synchronous sessions in tutoring, embedded tutoring through Canvas, small group sessions, tutor-led study groups and NetTutor.
East Los Angeles College is offering feedback on assignments through asynchronous tutoring like email and paper drop-off.
“East also has its own reading and writing center to help with the asynchronous tutoring available,” Kiekel said.
“The tutoring is also not on transcripts and is also free to access. All you have to do as a student is ask for the help you need,” she said.
NetTutor is available to students 24/7 for all of the broader subjects like English and math, but not for more precise courses.
Rodriguez spoke on the racial injustice movements throughout the nation and said that the students can expect improvements in the areas of racial equality and reform in changing society for the better.
The standards in classrooms and in the offices of the district will be improved and focused on by the board as a top priority.
The district plans on serving students with respect and quality through two ways, “Excellent service and excellent teaching,” Rodriguez said.