Post-Webinar Plática

Q&A with Derek Majors of Los Angeles Trade Tech College

* Plática = talk, or chat

CLP hosted a series of webinars to support student services faculty, staff, and administrators at community colleges across California as they re-orient to providing services completely online during the Covid-19 pandemic. Find information about the Moving Student Supports Online webinar series (and additional materials) here. Derek Majors, a pathway counselor in Construction, Maintenance and Utilities at Los Angeles Trade Tech College (LATTC), was one of the presenters.

Derek’s presentation focused on the various points of contact that counselors at LATTC are now having with students and how the counselors have equipped themselves with answers and resources for those students. We asked him to expand on some of the subjects he touched upon.

CLP: California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley recently said that he wants to keep the dropout rate due to Covid-19 under 10%. It was already hard to keep some of the most vulnerable students in class. How are counselors addressing student retention when existing issues are being compounded by remote instruction?

Majors: We have received lists of students from the LA College Promise who have dropped off in the last couple of semesters, who may be some of the students having retention issues. I’m a counselor in the construction pathway, and I have lists of some, but not all, of the students who have dropped out of classes–whether they were excused or they didn’t show up. We know that sometimes the college email is an issue, so we want to send messages to their personal email addresses inviting them back. In these messages, we offer them an opportunity to update their educational plans and to set up live online chats or text or phone appointments. Our goal is to find out what they need, and offer them any services they need.

My approach is to say, “Let me help you as much as possible now, to help you get back into school.” We lost around 7% to 10% of our total enrollment almost immediately with the Covid-19 crisis. Some people just went away. I’m hoping we can get some of them back in various ways or get a presence going and offer counseling classes where we bring in student services and other programs that support students. We have had to find out if we need to connect students with laptops because they weren’t logging into Canvas. We have had to get some to use Cranium Cafe, another tool we use that offers various modes of communication: live chat, video conferencing, and screen-sharing. You can teach a class in Cranium Cafe. We have been training on it for a year, and many counselors and instructors had skills in both Cranium Cafe and Canvas going into the crisis, which was helpful.

CLP: LA Trade Tech offers automotive programs, barbering, cosmetology, culinary arts, welding, and other courses of study with significant ‘hands-on’ learning components. Will students in these programs be able to finish their degrees and certificates on time? Have you heard of any plans to bring students in the trades back for the components of their studies that may not be suited to online learning?

Majors: Most of those programs do require hands-on training. For example, you cannot learn to cut someone’s hair or assemble drywall without putting your hands on it. In some classes that moved onto Canvas, instructors are using YouTube and conference tools to deliver instructional content. And then there are programs like the power line mechanic program, where I recently asked the instructor how students would complete the course. He told me, “I cannot grade someone on a simulation. I need to see how that student performs 35 feet in the air.”

It’s my understanding that LATTC will be online for the summer. So I don’t think students in these programs will be able to finish soon, but they will be able to continue. Some of these programs are in a holding pattern until we have guidance about when students can safely return to campus.

CLP: Are there any resources you need that you don’t have to help you to continue counseling students given the current realities of physical distancing and working from home?

Majors: Not in terms of resources for me. But if I had a magic wand, I do wish that every student who needed a laptop, a Chromebook, WiFi, and a phone could have them. I’m concerned that our students have the tools that they need to stay in touch with us. If all of them had the tools that they need to continue their work, it would be a big relief for all of us.

The webinar series was produced by the Career Ladders Project with funding from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.