Many college students were evicted from their college dorms when the pandemic hit. Left behind were freedoms, friends and formative experiences as they were forced to repopulate their childhood homes. It is understandable that some students spiraled, longing to recapture a semester and college experience that was gone. That loss is a real and we should not quickly dismiss the pain experienced by these young people that worked hard to move into secondary education.
Several months have passed, and in the United States, not a single higher education institution has gone back to business as usual. The conversations at Bakersfield College have never been about fear-mongering, but shifted quickly to innovative ways to make room for anyone and everyone, displaced ivy leaguers and first timers alike. BC has maintained our full catalog of classes but the way we teach has had to change.
Some classes, like the communication courses I teach, were not imagined as lessons to be experienced digitally. For students that are resisting the shift to online, I want to tell you that only a few months ago, many teachers would have stood alongside you in the refrain that they are, “NEVER GOING ONLINE.” Me, I am some teachers.
However, after spending more than 20-plus hours a week in video conferences with students for the last two months, I will begrudgingly admit: at Bakersfield College, online teaching is working. Do I miss teaching my board game lessons to a room full of students? Absolutely. But I am determined to find a way to effectively use board games in my online small group summer school course and to continue to find ways to connect with my students in this isolated world.
My “online” classes meet with me over video during our regular class times, and I dispense the same lectures, kahoots and listen to speeches like I would have done in a physical classroom. To be perfectly clear, it is not the same, and I am grateful that my students have extended much grace as I have tried many new tactics, not all of which have worked. And there are real life challenges that are new to students as well. This semester I have one student who completed my argumentation and debate class from the breakfast table with her toddler and only a smart phone. An older reentry student in my public speaking class warned me on the first day he “does not do computers,” hung in there when we moved online and is currently earning an “A.” My only ask from my students when we shifted fully online was to keep showing up, and they did, and exceeded all my expectations.
It is a strange moment in history, and I will proudly remember that I was working at Bakersfield College where we are training people for the workforce, to learn a new skill or get credits until they can move on to a university. If you do not know what to do next, I hope you will consider enrolling so we can help you keep moving forward.
Chris Cruz-Boone is a professor in the Department of Communication at Bakersfield College.