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.