Dallas College administration discusses remote learning during virtual town hall

Mia Samaniego, Contributing Writer

“It’s hard to focus on education sometimes when you have to struggle to meet your basic needs,” Pyeper Wilkins, the Dallas College chief of advancement initiatives said at a virtual town hall on Nov. 19. 

Justin Lonon, Dallas College executive vice chancellor, moderated the Remote Learning town hall. 

Dallas College Chancellor Joe May opened the event with statements about the unique circumstances of this semester with the entire college joining the rest of the nation in adapting to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really are at a critical time of our community’s health and welfare,” May said, referring to the recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in North Texas. 

May said the Dallas College administration is monitoring the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Their main focus, however, is providing support for Dallas College students struggling in their studies due to financial or health concerns.  “We’re finding solutions on an individual basis,” May said. “We want to continue to meet those needs.”

Following May’s opening remarks, Beatriz Joseph, president of Mountain View Campus,  discussed the needs which students are expressing. 

Joseph said the majority of Dallas College students are part-time students working during the day or are parents providing for their children. She said many Dallas College students are working in essential services, which face more difficulties as the pandemic surges.  

Wilkins said struggling students should seek assistance from the many services Dallas College provides to help make learning accessible during this stressful period. 

Dallas College has partnered with North Texas Food Bank and makes available food cards to students unable to acquire groceries, according to Wilkins. 

Wilkins said she highly encouraged struggling students to apply for the emergency aid provided by the CARES Act Fund distributed by Dallas College. 

According to the Dallas College CARES Fund Report, Dallas College received more than $9.7 million from the CARES Act Fund as of Nov. 20. 

Of that amount, just over $1 million was distributed to Brookhaven Campus from the CARES Act Fund, 26% of which have been distributed to students.  

Wilkins said the distributed funds can be applied toward things such as housing or child care.

Various resources and services previously offered on campuses are still offered to students: financial aid, academic advising, career support, counseling and tutoring appointments. 

Isra Qureshi, a student, shared her experience with remote learning during the virtual town hall. 

“For me, personally, the challenge has been to really relearn how to learn,” Qureshi said. 

Quereshi said she advises her classmates to consider how to change their environment into an appropriate study space.

Limited accessibility to technology and a preference for in-person classes are two struggles students have expressed this semester, Joseph said. 

According to the Dallas College website, students need to have appropriate devices to succeed in online classes. For instance, a student needs access to Blackboard Collaborate and Microsoft Office for online lectures. 

Joseph said Dallas Public Library offers portable hotspot devices for a 30-day period. The hotspot devices can be checked out through the same in-person process as checking out a book. 

Shazia Ali, an English professor at Eastfield Campus, said communication is one of the key elements for success in academics and repeated the opportunities and programs praised by Wilkins.

Joseph echoed the sentiment Qureshi expressed of re-discovering how to learn on the part of professors. “We need to relearn how to teach as well,” Joseph said. 

Students will continue to receive updates through text and email. May said any significant change to campus closure during the Spring semester will be announced by Jan. 4.