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Chaparral 2017-2018: 26.5 CSEA Connection

CSEA Connection

by Narbeh Nazari
CSEA President

Dear Classified Staff,

One of the issues that community colleges are currently facing is Governor Brown’s proposal for a fully online public community college. The concept of a fully online college is to provide affordable and accessible education for working class adults. 

At the Annual Classified Retreat, participants may remember that Dr. Viar’s informative college update presentation included the Governor’s proposal for a fully online college.

The first question that comes to my mind is: would a fully online college provide students the same college experience?

As a former Glendale Community College student, I always appreciated the positive impact of classified staff on my education. During my college years, many of my interactions with classified staff who provide maintenance, safety, clerical, food and other services, had a lasting impression on my professional development.

Classified staff assist our students by offering strategies for success and positively impact our student experiences. Classified staff play a tremendous part in the role of teaching our students non-cognitive, vital, and practical life skills. They are a fundamental part of our public education system.

Governor Brown’s online college proposal clearly lacks the concept of human connection. I believe the lack of traditional face-to-face interaction may result in lack of focus on development of interpersonal skills and basic self-discipline (as well as other skills) that are essential for today’s job market.

Recently, I read an article on the state CSEA website from 89.3 KPCC Voice of Southern California written by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez. I have included some of the highlights from that article below:

“Governor Jerry Brown is ramping up his campaign to convince legislators to fund a new, wholly online community college, arguing that millions of working-class Californians will then be able to take skills-building classes.

But not everyone is sold on the idea that more virtual-only classes will solve problems for Californians struggling to access the job training they need to obtain higher-paying work. 

While some current California community college students say they see clear promise in expanding the state's public educational offerings available online, others say they've already struggled to make their experiences in virtual classes match the quality of brick and mortar options.

As state legislators consider approving the governor’s request to fund the new online college’s start-up costs – estimated at $100 million – and an additional $20 million in yearly operating expenses, some student feedback and research suggests a new online college won’t entirely solve this population’s continuing education needs.

All three of California's public college and university systems offer online classes. But none of these higher education systems run a wholly online campus.

There’s also an urgency among some of the students in the new college’s target population. It’s an urgency that has to do with making sure that the steps they’re taking now will lead to better work.”

In the end, the questions that remain unanswered are: how will student support services also be provided with this new college (such as financial aid and other student services support)?  What connections/interactions will be made between the student and the “college?”  (Research shows that connections with a campus improve student success).  What about more challenging courses such as math, science, and lab work?

Yes, there are many issues that need to be addressed.  As well-intentioned as the idea of an online college may seem, rushing to dispense $120 million into a new online college that doesn’t appear to be serving the intended student demographic as well as the traditional face- to-face human interaction does seem unwise at best.

CSEA website: www.glendale.edu/csea

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