Los Rios and Sierra College break the news that fall semester will be fully online

Decision being made due to uncertainty over virus trends

Due+to+the+recent+news+from+the+California+Governor%27s+Office+that+the+same+social+distancing+guidelines+will+most+likely+be+in+place+this+fall%2C+the+Los+Rios+Community+College+District+and+other+college+districts+in+California+have+announced+their+fall+semesters+will+be+entirely+online.+%28Photo+by+Emily+Mello%29

Due to the recent news from the California Governor's Office that the same social distancing guidelines will most likely be in place this fall, the Los Rios Community College District and other college districts in California have announced their fall semesters will be entirely online. (Photo by Emily Mello)

In wake of the coronavirus-induced campus shutdown in March, the Los Rios Community College District has asked students to prepare to go online for the fall semester.

On May 12, Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brian King sent out an email on behalf of all Los Rios Community College presidents,stating that the district has collectively made the decision “to move to a fully online fall schedule with extremely limited exceptions for courses that cannot be converted.”

According to King, the decision was hard for the whole district to come to terms with, but was strongly supported due to the recent news from the Governor’s Office that the same social distancing guidelines for the state of California will most likely be in place this fall. 

King said these guidelines will be in place because it’s highly unlikely that the state will have access to enough testing, contact tracing or any personal protective equipment that will be necessary to open all Los Rios campuses on a broader scale, meaning the safest option will be to proceed with remote online learning.

According to the email, the district’s administration is aware of the concern regarding the classes that are heavily facility-dependent and cannot be converted effectively to online learning.

“College instructional offices will be working with individual departments on identifying these exceptions and assessing the options for those specific classes,” King said in the email.

The district has also developed new training tools to continually support online education including Canvas Quickstart Training for faculty, staff, and students still struggling to navigate Canvas, according to the email. 

They are also working towards developing additional opportunities to aid staff and faculty with online planning. According to King, the goal is to increase their capacity to support as many faculty and staff as possible with this transition.

According to the email, the campus will remain 100 percent closed until at least July 4, and will continue to update students as things continue to change.

“Above everything else, our top priority is and must always be the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We also recognize that students are going to need strong support to be successful online, just as they rely on our support to be successful on-ground,” King said in the email. “Even as we take these necessary measures to protect our community’s collective health, we remain committed to serving students in this new environment.”

According to Gabe Ross, associate vice chancellor of the LRCCD, since the public health dynamic of the next few months is still unknown, the district had been preparing to go online, instead of once again having to make a shift halfway through the semester.

Ross says that every class will have a required element on Canvas.

“We believe that this approach will allow students, faculty, and staff to prepare for the possibility of a fully online schedule while still giving us the flexibility to offer classes on campus if public health experts suggest it is safe,” Ross said.

Admissions and student services were also forced online this semester, and according to Ross, are prepared to do so again come fall. 

“Faculty, staff, and administrators at the college and throughout the district have done an outstanding job adjusting to a situation that nobody was prepared for and we continue to make great progress,” Ross said.

Ross also says the LRCCD is currently working toward a system that changes the way they distribute textbooks to students, including possibly mailing them to students.

This decision comes around the same time Sierra College announced it would be going largely online for their fall semester.

In an announcement sent out to the Sierra College student body two weeks ago, Public Information Officer Josh Morgan said that preparing now allows faculty to participate in training and professional development programs to ensure they are providing the highest quality education.

According to the statement, the college will have certain programs and classes that take place in person, though even those will be prepared to go online in case of a fall resurgence of the virus.

Morgan says that this decision keeps the safety of the community and the continuity of instruction at top priority.

“We have not made a decision or announcement regarding in-person delivery of student services and other activities as those will be greatly impacted by the health environment at the time,” Morgan said.

On Tuesday, California State University Chancellor Timothy White announced that the CSU district will also be canceling most of its in-person classes for the fall semester and transition to primarily online. The University of California system has yet to announce its plans for the fall semester.

Mairi Jo Jones, an interior architecture major who is graduating this semester from Sierra College, told the Current what she thinks about this situation of classes going online.

“The range of students varies between 18 years old to the elderly. It’s definitely a smart move to plan mostly online,” Jones said. “And it’s so much easier to have professors who maybe aren’t computer savvy to prepare during the summer for being all online in the fall and to gather good resources for that.”  

Jones also emphasized how important it is to plan ahead of time so either professors and students can be ready for any type of decision that the administration might have for next semester 

“Even though it seems so far out, it’s important to allow either part-time or full-time professors and students to prepare for being fully online. Nobody knows, but at least they can be prepared for it,” Jones said. “But I think it’s so much easier to do the transition from a face-to-face class to online, than the other way around.”