Dallas College’s IncludED program, which combines learning materials with the cost of tuition, was implemented at all campuses this fall. The goal was to make sure students had all their materials on the first day of class.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Greg Morris, IncludED coordinator, said as of the second week, 97 % of students had received their materials, but there were issues with science and art supply kits reaching students on time.
Morris said there were various factors at play, but COVID-19 was definitely part of the problem.
“Every university across the nation has also had to go completely online like we have,” he said. “A lot of these universities turn to these vendors to provide kits and supplies … and I think in general it just overwhelmed the system.”
Morris said another challenge has been students’ mailing addresses not being up to date. Morris said at some point this fall it will be mandatory for students to change or update their addresses in eConnect.
Art professor David Willburn said a small number of students in his studio art classes are still missing kits, and some who did receive their kits only received a portion of their supplies.
Willburn said about a week before the semester started administration raised the caps on some of the art classes by five to 10 students.
“These students were added at the last minute,” he said. “Apparently that wasn’t communicated to the bookstore immediately, and so it kind of set these students up for, not failure, but it certainly did not set them up for success from the very first day of class.”
Biology professor Brie Day said a number of her students were still without kits. One student recently received a kit that didn’t contain a microscope: something Day’s students need to complete their lab projects. The kit was from the wrong company.
Day said she believes the issue could be resolved if faculty members could communicate directly with the vendors instead of having to go through a department liaison. She said there are more middlemen involved now, and that is slowing down the process.
“The vendor’s not working directly with the faculty anymore, and so when problems arise, at best there’s a delay before they get fixed,” she said. “But a lot of times it’s very hard to get them fixed because you’re having to send messages through different levels.”
Willburn and Day said they are improvising to help students complete their coursework.
Willburn said some of his students have art supplies left over from previous classes and he is trying to suggest materials they might already have at home.
“I got lucky that I’ve got a few pretty scrappy students,” he said. “They just want to work, and so they’re not going to wait for their stuff. They’re just going to find what they have and get busy working.”
Day said she has told her students to focus on the lecture part of the course, hoping that will buy enough time for the lab kits to arrive. She said some professors have created virtual labs, but she feels her students need the kind of experience they will only get by doing the lab exercises themselves.
Morris said he understands the delay in materials is frustrating for faculty who just want to see their students succeed.
“Even though I would rate the program as an overwhelming success, we still have a lot of areas of improvement,” Morris said. “I’m hopeful we’ll get better as it relates to the COVID piece, but we’re committed to working through these issues.”