College of the Desert Creates a Blended Learning Environment as Fall 2022 Approaches

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College of the Desert is offering in-person classes this year as students and faculty prepare to return to school. Some students are excited to be back in class after being “100% online since the start of COVID,” said Sofia, a 2nd-year student at COD. “During the height of the COVID pandemic, COD moved to 100% online classes for over a year and started opening in-person classes last year,” Professor Felix Marhuenda Donate said.

Last semester, about two-thirds of their full-time equivalent student took online classes, and the remaining third, in-person instruction. During the upcoming fall semester, COD anticipates an increase in in-person registration; however, the California Community College Chancellors Office expects in-person enrollment to be around 50% for most community colleges.

Marhuenda Donate gives us her prediction for the College of the Desert campus. Still, he said they would pay close attention to enrollment numbers to make any necessary adjustments. “I love the classroom. I love the interactions with my students. It was hard during COVID not to have that; it was hard for many students not to have interactions with their teachers,” said Marhuenda Donate.

Marhuenda Donate is a professor of computer information systems and previously served as chair of distance education and led district accreditation efforts and policy creation in the region.

Some professors say it is difficult to deliver their teaching online. “There are other disciplines that they don’t think are really conducive to learning to conduct all of their online classes,” Marhuenda Donate said. College of the desert recognizes this, so they are offering a hybrid in-person format, or their new high flex format, where they have cameras in the classroom while teaching. The instructor conducts the lesson, records it, and then students can watch it online if they can’t make it to school,” said Marhuenda Donate.

Some students would like both options, like third-year biology major Emunah Daffon. “I’m a bit of both,” Daffon said. Because I think in person, the only thing in person on the internet is relationship. It’s like communication; you can be with your friends, talk to new people, fail with your friends, succeed with your friends when online, and be a little lonely.

“I honestly think they should keep an online option,” Sofia said. Going forward, I don’t think they should go entirely in person. I think online is like a huge thing for people who are struggling with mental illness and, you know, having a lot of anxiety going to school or, you know, being with people, with people and big classrooms and stuff like that.

“I think online education is here to stay,” said Marhuenda Donate.

We’ve had, we’ve offered online courses for 20 years, and now we’re getting a lot better. Many online universities, like the University of Phoenix and National University, continue to grow their enrollment due to format flexibility.

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