PCC adopts virtual learning methods

Photo courtesy Drug Addiction Clinic Vita



Speculation of Pima Community College’s potential closure began to brew prior to spring break, about March 10. 


This came following an uproar of campus closures throughout the United States, including announcements from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. 


“While I definitely think the measures PCC has taken are with our best interests, and theirs, in mind … it definitely hasn’t been smooth,” said Vin Solewin, a cyber security and cyber forensic major. “It’s doubly hard as I’m a student tutor, so I have had two aspects of my life switched from in-person to on-computer.”


Omar Martinez, a business entrepreneurship major, agreed with Solewin.


“I think the local community communicated greatly,” Martinez said. “Everyone put in an effort to make changes to try to fight the spread of COVID-19.” 


On March 12, an email was sent to faculty members claiming “official word” of campus closures and class cancellation. The message later was clarified as improperly sourced, although later that same day Chancellor Lee Lambert indicated that he intended to extend spring break through March 24. 


A press release on March 16 stated in-person classes would be suspended through March 27. This was five days beyond the original end of spring break. They also closed access to facilities such as libraries and resource centers during the break in addition to suspending all face-to-face activities. 


The release informed the community that all classes within the realm of capability would be moved to the virtual format. Classes were expected to resume on March 25 in online formats, but access to PCC facilities would not open up until at least March 27. 


A second press release was sent out that same day, noting that “a member of the college community may have been exposed to someone recently tested for COVID-19.” Lambert affirmed in an email to all employees, that way later forwarded to students, that the Pima County Health Department was aware and would inform the community when it was safe to return. 


On March 17, another release stated that employees would continue to work from home as the campuses were to remain closed except to emergency service personnel and pre-approved activities such as payroll processing. 


The start-date for summer 2020 registration was moved to April 13.  “In-person 5-week courses scheduled to begin May 26 will either move online or be shifted to begin on July 1. All 2nd 5-week courses beginning on July 1 will be held, and will be distributed across campuses as a social distancing measure,” stated an email from Provost Dolores Durán-Cerda on March 24. 


The email indicated that May 4 would be the start-date for fall 2020 registration. 


Additionally, PCC enacted a plan to reverse late fees for students who neglected to follow their spring payment plans. Pima recognizes the financial challenges many of our students may be facing,” stated the Provost’s email. 


Classes that had originally begun as online continued beginning on March 25. The college confirmed that all eligible classes would be transitioned to online formats and recommence on March 30. This included classes that had begun at the start of the semester one second-week eight-week classes. 


Of approximately 2400 face-to-face classes, approximately 1900 had been converted to virtual technology by March 30.


The graduation commencement ceremony, which had been scheduled for May 21, was officially cancelled in an email from Lambert on March 26. All additional recognition and completion events were cancelled as well. The message stated that District officials would continue to survey and explore virtual alternatives and potential in-person events during the summer and fall of 2020. 


“This is among the most painful decisions I, the Board, and the Executive Leadership Team have made during this crisis. Graduation season is the happiest time of the school year,” Lambert said. 


Finally, the same March 26 announcement explained the procedures for classes that could not be successfully moved to online formats. Students enrolled in such courses would receive an incomplete, or “I,” grade. The courses would be postponed and will begin no earlier than May 26, should local protocol allow for it. They plan to continue them as eight-week summer courses at no additional cost to students. 


“The virtual learning has now taken the place of my going to class. I feel like a lot of people aren’t happy with the change, but it is necessary in order to combat the virus,” Martinez said. “I feel like they did an OK job in trying to respond. A lot of people were still out and felt this was a free pass from school and work instead of a serious pandemic. 


“I think that we could’ve shut down a lot of other things in order to stop people from being able to go out and be more exposed to the disease.” 


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