Education taught from a distance


Krys Shahin

Laurie Huffman in a Zoom call.

Yesenia Mendez, Staff Writer

Los Medanos College students were notified that all lecture based classes would be moving to remote instruction, and both the Pittsburg campus and the Brentwood Center would be closed, starting March 16. This decision was made as a result of the novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Faculty and staff had less than a week to transition all courses online. Many learned how to navigate Zoom and Canvas on their own, while others received help and resources from the Distance Education Committee. 

For fifteen years, the Distance Education Advisory Committee has used tools that develop and support training in online education, as developed by Distance Education Coordinator Laurie Huffman. 

Last year, the Contra Costa Community College District received a $1.5 million grant for distance education to go towards all three colleges: Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College and LMC. 

“There was a grant we asked for through the state of California, the CVC-OEI, Pathways Grant,” said Huffman. “We were really working hard when this [pandemic] hit, and without that [grant] I don’t think the transition would have been as easy for LMC. And especially our group, because we were literally building out the infrastructure for if something like this were to happen.”

When the district requested help in moving classes online, LMC math instructor Scott Hubbard offered to hold sessions at the Brentwood Center and on Zoom to guide other instructors through online learning. 

“Monday [March 16] we were still on campus and then Tuesday the shelter-in-place order came, so I just held it online,” said Hubbard. “I just did drop ins, people came in and I was holding like six or seven hours on Tuesday and just had the zoom room open like this and I helped about 12 faculty that day.” 

According to Hubbard, each staff member had a different skill level in regards to online teaching. While some professors had to learn Canvas from scratch when this occurred, others didn’t even have the technology for online classes at home.

“Some of our faculty, you know, are just like our students. They don’t have technology at home. I helped one faculty who only has an iPad and very basic internet, she doesn’t have a desktop or a laptop so she was understandably worried about that,” said Hubbard. “It’s really hard as an instructor on the instructor side to create the course just using an iPad.”

Professors such as art instructor Ken Alexander also had trouble finding the resources he needed to continue his class online as his course was solely based on visual learning.

“I realized pretty quickly I was going to need a webcam and work space set up for demos in my drawing class, but found out that webcams are virtually impossible to find anywhere in California, so I ordered one from the U.K.,” said Alexander.

Along with technical difficulties, Alexander explained that he had to develop his skills through 24/7 learning and experiment, in addition to faculty training.

“There’s been a fair amount of training made available, but primarily, I had to learn by doing, relying on the assistance of my somewhat to considerably more technically-aware colleagues within my department,” said Alexander. “I tried an online Zoom meeting to learn a particular skill, but the use of PC vs. Mac, and Powerpoint vs Keynote, so it just confused me, so I checked out.”

The DE committee aims to target the issues faculty are having regarding online transitions in order to roll out training webinars where they are most needed. LMC faculty were also sent a survey on their perspective regarding Canvas.

“Results showed that the majority of faculty that took the survey feel that their skills in the development of a Canvas course are at an advanced and intermediate level,” said Huffman. “But now my piece is the quality, are they employing best practices, do they know what those are? So that’s the next piece that we’re working on, on the district level”

LMC has been using remote instruction for two weeks to date, and many individuals are trying to provide as many resources as possible for students and staff. 

Although this is no easy feat, everyone has been pushed out of their comfort zone and adapted quickly in order to continue the rest of the semester. 

Every morning Huffman sends an email with updates and training tips to the LMC faculty.

“The first thing they read is, ‘Hello, good morning LMC. Here’s your training for the day,’” said Huffman. “People look forward to that letter and it has all the trainings at different levels for whatever they feel they’re lacking in their course design process.”

Information and resources to assist with navigating LMC’s online classes and services can be found at