Campus leaders discuss the steps they are taking to further support students-in-need in the virtual setting.
“We always want students and faculty to have good communication; to help students however much we can and make sure that they are in an environment where they can best learn and live,” said Dr. Daria Graham, Dean of Students.
Following the CDC guidelines on the pandemic, all of the CSU campuses have been operating virtually this 2020-2021 academic year with very limited classes held in-person.
Dr. Graham shares some details about the kind of communication she does on a normal work day from home.
“I received 177 emails in just two days,” says Dr. Graham. She would read through the emails and sort which ones would need immediate responses.
Faculty and students are struggling to adapt to their year-long reality of virtual learning. They have been working, learning, and teaching from home.
Dr. Graham shares that, for some students, having a safe space to do their schoolwork is not an accessible option because some students don’t have a home or a place where they can focus on their schoolwork.
President of CSUSB’s Associated Student Incorporated (ASI), Graciela Moran, who is completing her undergraduate degree at CSUSB, also expresses her concerns on how students are struggling with access to a space where academic work can be done.
Moran explains that she works from home and, on some days, goes to campus. She says this is typically her schedule as a student and ASI president.
Moran also shares that students are still struggling to have access to technology and financial resources.
She adds, “A lot of students are homeless and lacking basic needs. I think there is always going to be problems with equity. And with the pandemic, we are seeing that even more because of technology. It has become such a basic need.”
During an open forum with CSU’s new Chancellor, Dr. Joseph Castro, in a virtual forum with CSUSB’s President Tomas Morales and other campus faculty members , Dr. Castro acknowledges CSUSB’s new virtual reality by discussing how he specifically chose to virtual visit CSUSB to get familiar with the campus and its staff.
“I also hear a lot about the need to have enough food, housing and technology access,” said Dr. Castro when being asked about the challenges students are currently facing.
Sharon Pierce, an assistant professor of Public Administration at CSUSB, also weighs in on how COVID-19 has affected her virtual classroom. She reveals that much of it involves access to technology as well as the knowledge to use it.
“This virtual learning environment created, or kind of magnified, what I would consider a digital divide between students who have access to technology, or who are comfortable with using it, and those who don’t have access to technology or don’t know how to use it,” says Pierce.
Pierce additionally shares how she had to create tutorial videos for her students specifically on using Blackboard and creating Microsoft Office’s PowerPoint.
“I think two-way communication is hard for our students,” says Pierce, as she explains the students’ struggles to find belonging or comfort in virtual classroom, especially engagement with other students and addressing questions during class instead of sending them through email.
Due to the increased amount of hours everyone spends online, Moran shares that fatigue over zoom and emails are being felt by many students, further intensifying how communication has become a struggle between students and faculty.
Dr. Graham also explains the shift in how we view technology pre-pandemic and how we see it now.
When asked about the future state of the upcoming fall semester, Dr. Castro said, “Based on the facts we received from discussions with health experts, we believe that we can offer majority of our courses in person in the fall semester and that’s the way we are planning as a system.”
Dr. Castro also acknowledged the current challenges students are facing with mental health and is aiming towards more funding for students’ resources.
“Students are resilient,” said Moran, as she expresses how the pandemic continues to affect students physically, mentally, and financially.
As a reminder, “Take it one day at a time, don’t look at how many days you have towards the end. Let’s address the thing that is in front of us right now,” Dr. Graham said.