By Carol Whaley
Earlier this year, CPFA conducted a survey of part-time faculty in the California Community College system to assess how the transition to online teaching has been handled during the Covid-19 pandemic. We received 48 responses from part-time faculty in 26 different districts from across the state.
When the pandemic hit in Spring 2020, the entire world of education was rocked by the very quick shut-down of in-person learning. Literally, all learning had to shift to a remote model. An Emergency Temporary Distance Education Blanket Addendum was granted to the CCC system by the Chancellor’s office to deliver all course instruction remotely for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. Districts had to subsequently apply for extensions of the Blanket Addendum for Summer and Fall 2020 with included plans for the process for local approval of all courses being offered remotely by December 30, 2020. This, of course, was a massive undertaking for the curriculum committees at each campus.
Even with the push for more online offerings in the last decade or so, the vast majority of college classes were still being offered in the traditional on-campus mode and many had never been taught online. This is highlighted by our research that shows that 67% of our respondents had not taught online prior to the Spring 2020 shift to remote teaching. One of the main accreditation requirements for online courses to be considered Distance Education is faculty completing a certification course for online teaching. Our respondents reported that only 30% had completed this certification prior to Spring 2020. This meant that the vast majority had to complete the required certification course while also converting the courses they teach to the online format.
The big questions were how much time did this take and were part-time faculty compensated for this time? The short answers are a lot of time and not much compensation.
First regarding time to complete the online certification, nearly 50% said the certification course took over 30 hours. And, not surprisingly, 39% were not compensated. Another aspect of this is that each district has its own certification process. Although there were only 9 respondents who said they taught in multiple districts, ⅔ of them said the certification they had from one district was not accepted in the second district so they had to do it again, usually for no pay.
All respondents reported that their districts are using the Canvas LMS, but over 62% said they needed to learn other software in addition to Canvas in order to teach their courses. And, unsurprisingly, over 80% said they were not compensated for learning this new software.
Besides having to meet certification requirements in order to teach online, many faculty had to convert their formerly face-to-face classes to the online format. 69% reported it took them 30 plus hours per course to do this conversion. Of all who had to convert courses, 52% said they were not compensated to do so. 28% said they received between $500 and $1000 for converting their courses, with 20% receiving under $300.
Another factor in converting to teaching online from home was the need to upgrade equipment. Many needed new computers and/or technology equipment such as microphones and doc cams. A big need was upgraded Internet. As you might guess, most of these upgrades were paid for out of pocket (77%) with a few reporting that their district loaned them needed equipment (15%) and a very small number being partially reimbursed (8%).
I think we can see the gist here. For a large number of part-time faculty, not only were we asked (required) to do a lot of unpaid labor to become certified to teach online and convert all of our courses, we had to pay expenses out of pocket to do so. This is what respondents had to say about how they felt about the support they received from their district in this transition:
“There are more requirements on me than support.”
“No support just more free work”
“There is a mixed level of support, but most of it has been a sacrifice of my own time with no financial compensation”
“It doesn’t seem to reach middle-class administrators that our time is valuable, too, and that the time that we spend working without compensation is a serious burden for us”
“My district likes to blame part-time faculty for its declining enrollment.”
When asked how they felt about delivering their courses online, some are enjoying it, while many others are frustrated. Some responses were:
“Good, but it’s too much work.”
“I’m delivering good content, but it is very challenging all around.”
“I prefer face-to-face, but teaching online has its advantages. Nice to know that if I ever move I can still teach at the same colleges because I can now teach online. It’s been a learning experience.”
“I’m getting more comfortable, but as someone who traditionally had discussion-based courses this does not translate at all.”
“I do not feel it is the best way to teach most classes. There is no real way to have the same interactions and support for students.”
“I REALLY miss the classroom interactions and the associated immediate feedback. With ZOOM I am basically talking into a screen most of the time.”
“My classes are not appropriate for 100% online instruction and the content; delivery and efficacy have all suffered greatly.”
“I am improving my content and my methods, but I am not enjoying teaching as I once did.”
“Much more work than face-to-face”
“I hate it.”
Ultimately, we teach our courses for the students. This is how the respondents feel the students are handling the transition to online learning:
“It varies. Some have adapted well and even prefer it for some courses, others are really struggling.”
“Everyone misses the personal contact. Mental health has taken a big hit.”
“Depends on the student. Some are not suited to online learning.”
“Not very well for ESL students.”
“Students prefer the face-to-face setting. They are going through the motions but cheating their education by googling answers. Time management has been a major issue.”
“Probably 70% are coping, 20 % utterly failing, 10% preferring.”
“Terribly. There are a couple of students in each class doing well, but not many. Most are cheating their way through as much as possible.”
“Pretty well, although some struggle and many don’t have the needed equipment/technology.”
So how has the transition to online teaching in the face of the Covid-19 Pandemic gone? I’d say we’ve done an incredible job in the face of a true emergency. Unfortunately, we see through this study that part-time faculty have once again been asked to do a lot of work for little compensation.
Carol Whaley, MFA, received her education at UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State University and has been part-time faculty in the Drama Department at San Diego City College since 2000. She is a founding member and current Vice-Chair of the San Diego Adjunct Faculty Association (SDAFA) and is an active member of FACCC. She is the editor of the Spring 2021 CPFA Journal.
4 Replies to “The Transition to Online Teaching in the Age of Covid-19”
Thanks, Carol. I appreciate the survey, but even more, I appreciate your well-written, concise remarks.
After a year and a half into this online and zoom teaching, my needs have changed. I do not want professional development. I don’t need to spend time in a class. I want someone who is available for me to ask casual questions, such as “how much work shall I assign? Can I expect the same amount of output from my students online? How about testing for SLO’s? How can I conduct an ‘in-class writing assignment’?”
None of these questions can be answered by college or canvas tech support. I am uneasy calling colleagues and department chairs, as I know they are all overwhelmed. Last year, we had a mentoring program where I could meet with another teacher–by appointment–and it was great. This year it is not happening, and I just wish there was someone I felt comfortable calling and saying, “how did you handle this?”
Yes, this experience is once again too much for too little pay (what else is new?). Some colleges offer formal support and paid training, but this is only helpful if it is not part of required flex hours. I am usually required to do about 15 flex hours/semester. Usually I complete between 30 and 60-plus hours a semester. I record them so that the college knows what I am doing in addition to what I am being paid for. However, it is the informal support I would like. If this is a need for others, how is it being handled?
Thank you Carol Whaley for your insightful article. I had to adapt from face to face to online teaching in 2005. At that time, CGCC used WebCT while COCC used Blackboard. You are right in that we are not compensated for the prep time, cost of computers, peripherals, or supplies. However, when you factor in not having to commute to work, it’s kind of a trade-off. In Oregon we use Quality Matters as our standard rubric. You might contact them with your questions about assessments and how to retrofit your face to face to an online course. CGCC migrated from Web CT to Moodle, and it is a lot of work to change a course from one LMS to another. Check out this link: https://www.qualitymatters.org/
Great work Carol! I will make this brief since I am now reduced to pecking away with 2 fingers. Initially support from administration was non existent. It felt like we were exiled to Siberia. 15 Months later, it is much better – but as an adjunct with 14 years teaching a practical course – that of Theatre Acting for Older Adults – I and my students still find that we need face to face contact (socialization) and that Zoom, Canvas, and the rest of the virtual paraphernalia is neither effective nor without constant stressful IT glitches. Did I mention stress? Emotional stress can strongly contribute to Rheumatoid arthritis, my diagnosis since going online and made roughly nine post Siberian Exile. Currently I am requesting leave of absence rather than taking my Dr’s recommendation and quitting. This is say that there are all different ways to lose you adjunct position.
I have had to teach remotely and use canvas and zoom. I am not certified to be an online instructor. My quantity of work has increased dramatically. Teaching in person and commuting two hours three times a week required less time.
FYI: I teach American Government. My experiences using canvas and zoom are obviously different from those teaching many other subjects.
I hold zoom sessions during the regularly scheduled time of my classes. I strive to make my class as similar to being in person as possible. There are some great features on zoom including chat and access to the internet so I can quickly share relevant videos such as examples of political ads. I can bring up a word document and type in notes which are clear and can be done quicker than using a blackboard.
However, over time, fewer and fewer students attend zoom sessions which, understandably, must be recorded and shared. Most alienating are students not turning on their videos–many have good reasons for not doing so–they lack the equipment and have legitimate privacy concerns. That means I can have students for a whole term and never see them–just a square with a name. Sometimes, they are just logged in and not present—silly since their attendance is not mandatory.
Unlike zoom, I have found canvas to be a poorly designed program requiring a lot of extra work to figure out how to do what should be obvious. The training I received focused on the bells and whistles of canvas without first instructing us on how to do the most basic tasks. I never found an introductory guide that provides basic training showing one how to do necessary tasks one small step at a time.
For me, canvas is not a very intuitive program compared to professional tax return software that I use for a side job I have preparing taxes. It is a source of much frustration—I am often not sure if what I think I have done is what is actually what I have done. It has a student view feature showing what students supposedly receive, but it is not adequate in providing me with the assurance I seek that I have done something correctly.
The people providing canvas technical support have been very helpful when you can reach them. However, they have informed me that if they hear from many people describing similar problems, the rules of the company are they are not to inform the designers so they can correct the problems people are having—an incredible irrational approach–the exact opposite of a common-sense approach.