By Erik Galicia
Two weeks after the announcement that the summer term will be completely online, it has been decided remote learning will continue through the fall semester.
“Due to requirements for physical and social distancing, there will be no face-to-face only sections offered,” Wolde-Ab Isaac, the Riverside Community College District chancellor, said in an email sent April 29. “All lecture classes will be offered online.”
Susan Mills, vice chancellor of Educational Services and Strategic Planning, said this is a District decision in compliance with orders from the Riverside County Public Health Department.
“The safety of our students, faculty and staff are the main priority,” Mills said.
According to Mills, there are no plans at this point to allow face-to-face lectures in the fall even if the Riverside County Board of Supervisors votes to rescind local COVID-19 safety orders May 8, though such an action may allow the District to offer face-to-face labs in compliance with social distancing.
“It’s clear we’ll still have requirements of social distancing and that’s the main impetus for having lectures online,” she said.
Classes will still be listed on the schedule with set dates and times, which some worry will create the illusion that in-person instruction will be available.
“We need to make sure that we are very clear in our messaging about how fall is going to work,” District Academic Senate President Mark Sellick said during the Riverside City College Academic Senate meeting May 4.
Because instruction may be planned outside of the scheduled time slots, Sellick urged students to reach out to their potential fall instructors to get clarity on what expectations for logging into class outside of the scheduled time blocks will be like next semester.
“You should all be prepared for those email messages,” Sellick told faculty. “(Students) are gonna be shopping, in a sense, for the classes that would best fit what it is they can do.”
STEM, CTE and Arts courses with practicum, lab or performance components that are able to abide by social distancing requirements will be offered in a hybrid mode if granted permission by Riverside County.
According to Isaac, many labs, by design, distance students due to the nature of the science being performed. He argued that because of that design, the District could make the case to local health authorities that some lab settings be allowed in the fall.
Details about how lab courses will function in the fall are still under review and will depend, in part, on state and county guidance. More clarity on this is expected by June.
Isaac said the libraries, writing centers and computer labs may not meet social distancing requirements and are not on the list for reopening at the moment.
The chancellor reported that of around 4,250 responses to an online transition survey sent to students in late March, 60% said they prefer face-to-face instruction and up to 18% said they were considering dropping out of college. Isaac said that although the district is doing better than most, a “small dip” in enrollment has been observed.
“We are trying to increase the support that we provide,” Isaac said during the District Academic Senate meeting April 27. “In terms of student services, academic support, tutoring, supplementary instruction, counseling and so on so that we can convince our students to get used to this new norm and stay on.”
The chancellor also announced a temporary lift of the registration hold on students who owe fees in an attempt to encourage attendance during the summer. But students will still be expected to pay their fees before registering for the fall term.
The District expects to provide more clarity on the fall semester in the coming weeks.
“Stay tuned,” Isaac said.