By SKYE SEIPP
Editors note: This report on student services is part of an on-going series by The Et Cetera on how campus departments are handling the switch to online-only and will be updated as more information becomes available.
[April 2, 3:23 p.m.] Tutoring services are now available through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. More information on tutoring can be found below.
[April 1, 10:58 a.m.] Links for accessing the library and filling out a consultation form to apply for assistance with the Center of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity are now available for students.
[March 30, 12:20 p.m.] Services across campus have been working this past week to provide remote access for students while the campus is closed.
The following update has information about Disability Services Office, Trio Student Support Services, the Center of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, the STEM Academic and Student Success Center, the Business Office, the Health Center, the Office of Student Engagement and Retention and Financial aid.
These services will be offering remote help, but some will not be operational by the time classes resume on Monday and some are limited by what they can offer due to not having access to students’ information through the district’s database yet.
[READ MORE: Don’t get stung by online classes, follow these tips from a virtual course veteran]
[March 27, 1:15 a.m.] Most student services that offer support, academic, health and wellness and financial needs are making a transition to offer aid to students from a remote location.
Library and tutoring services will both have online services, but tutoring will be delayed.
Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success
[April 12, 3:38 p.m.] CEVSS director Shelly Mencacci said the staff is working from home to process military education benefits and help students register for classes. Telecounseling is available upon request.
“We are still moving forward and processing all the requests that students have provided us,” Mencacci said. “Everything is the same.”
Mencacci said an email was sent to all veteran students to let them know CEVSS staff is available to answer questions and connect them with any community resources they might need during the COVID-19 crisis.
Students needing to get in touch with Veterans Services can email [email protected]
— Harriet Ramos
[April 1, 3:23 p.m.] Tutoring services were made available for students through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra today. A video guide of how to access it can be found here. The schedule of subjects and times can be found here.
[March 27, 1:15 a.m.] Tutoring coordinator Anand Upadhyaya said all 30 tutors are being trained on how to use the new services, and other than a few minor technical hiccups, he said they’ve been adapting well.
“The training of the tutors is taking more time than you might expect,” he said. “We can’t just pop them on and say, ‘here’s how you turn on the camera, bye.’ We want to make sure the service is a meaningful service.”
[READ MORE: District extends spring break extra week, moves classes online]
He said being the sole full-time employee in the department has made it difficult to transition online by the time classes resume on Monday but added that he expects it to be operational by mid to late next week.
“The biggest challenge is not having a full-time staff,” he said. “But that is the situation we are in and have been for a while.”
Tutors will be online with live video conferencing through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Hours will be the same as before, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.
The services will be accessed by logging into Blackboard through eCampus, clicking the “community” tab at the top and searching for Eastfield tutoring services. From this screen, you can click “join” on the left side of the screen, which will then give you access to online tutoring. Upadhyaya said they want to have a link available also.
Upadhyaya said the number of tutors available at one time will be the same as before — five to 10 based on the time of day — but added that it could change depending on demand. Students can get help with science courses, math and social sciences, such as history and Spanish. Tutoring is not available for other language classes, computer language and programming, courses related to a particular trade and computer aided drafting and design.
The virtual writing service will still be available and students can utilize the video tutoring for help with writing or can send drafts of their essays to [email protected]
Center of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity
[April 1, 10:52 a.m.] Students who need help with finances, food or other basic needs can fill out a consultation form here. Faculty, staff or administrators can also fill out the form for a student.
[March 30, 12:20 p.m.] Campus food pantries are closed, and mobile food pantries will not be visiting the colleges at this time.
Eastfield’s Honeycomb Cupboard was seeing about 100 students a month program coordinator Danae Bass said.
She is trying to combat the loss of the pantry by creating a form for students to fill out so she can figure out how to get them the resources they need. She hopes to have it available this week.
“I just want them [students] to know that there are some other resources out there and that I’m happy to do their research to help them find those,” Bass said. “I just want them to feel supported, because I feel like if they don’t, with all of the changes happening, that we may have some students that decide to withdraw or drop out.”
Part of Bass’s work includes reaching out to resources in the community, like the North Texas Food Bank and other food pantries, which is something that she is continuing to do.
Another group that she’s a part of is a task force in Dallas on youth homelessness. This group has a list that’s updated with the number of beds available at shelters and other resources. She plans on using this to help her aid students.
[READ MORE: Campus coronavirus updates: Career and technical classes]
Bass is also planning on being available for students through phone or video if they need someone to talk with. She said the technology has not been finalized, but that they will play around with different modes to see what works best.
“I’ve actually heard a couple of people just talk about how … they’re like craving some social interaction,” Bass said. “I think that’s also a common theme that we’re seeing even just across the nation. … So I’m hoping that our services, paired with what other departments will be doing, will at least provide some sort of social interaction.”
The other area of the Center of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity is service-learning and civic engagement, which is run by program coordinator Chris Schlarb.
They said this transition has been fairly simple for them, since there were no service-learning students during the second eight-week term and they only had two big events scheduled for the rest of the semester.
Of those two events, one was the Census Day, which was set to take place on April 8. Schlarb said they are using student Census Ambassadors on the app to get word and information out about the Census.
The other event was a Day of Action around activism. Schlarb said they are looking at other ways of getting information about the topic out to students by either posting videos in the app or writing an article and trying to get it sent to students in the district newsletter.
They said the biggest challenge is communication and outreach to students since their only way to reach students is through the Eastfield app.
“My concern is if this goes into the fall,” Schlarb said. “It would be difficult to have large community service events or have events that are interactive and creative. … And continually having students do service-learning would be more challenging as well [and] convincing faculty to use service-learning during a pandemic.”
Librarians will be accessible through video conferencing
[April 1, 9:47 a.m.] A web page is available to help people use the online library. It includes links to a form to email a Librarian and to the virtual help desk through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. There is also a video guide to using the virtual help desk.
[March 27, 1:15 a.m.] Library services will be online Monday, with two librarians available to help students through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, librarian Lindsey Bartlett said. They will be available from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The Ask a Librarian service will still be available during the same hours. People can email their questions to [email protected]
Access to the library through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra will be available through a link. The link will be posted on the library’s website, Twitter and Facebook.
[READ MORE: COVID-19 resources]
Students can also access the library’s online database by signing in to their library account with their eConnect login and visiting the library page at eastfieldcollege.edu/library. This is available at any time.
Bartlett said the transition to online has been smooth since some of the content — databases, e-books and catalogs — were already available online.
“Our real focus is to just make sure we have the tools necessary for students to learn how to access all of that,” she said. “Our big priority is making sure that all of our staff who’s going to be providing these virtual reference services is trained and really familiar with the platforms.”
[March 30, 12:20 p.m. ] Director of the Disability Services Office Daren Dorm said his office was waiting for access to the district’s virtual private network last week so they could obtain students’ information but added that they will be helping them via email and phone.
He said one staff member got access to the VPN on Monday and that others should follow soon.
Classroom assistants and interpreters will continue aiding students through email, phone calls and video chats. DSO will keep helping visually impaired students obtain alternative text e-books if needed and make sure videos have closed captioning. Hearing impaired students will be able to have interpreters help them with live online classes.
[READ MORE: Campus coronavirus updates: Continuing education]
Dorm said the switch to remote learning has forced DSO to get creative with how they interact with students, but they continue to offer services similar to the way they were before. He added that losing face to face instruction with students is going to be difficult, though.
“Nothing replaces having a person in the classroom,” Dorm said. “Nothing replaces having an interpreter in the classroom with them or being available for them to drop by for an appointment in the office.”
Students looking to file for aid with DSO can email [email protected] Dorm said their policy is to try to reply within 24 hours.
Trio: Student Support Services
[March 30, 12:20 p.m.] Dorm is also the director of Trio Student Support Services, which offers personal tutoring, advising, help with financial aid and other academic support for qualifying students.
Once the office receives VPN access, which they were already approved for, they will be able to continue helping their students with advising, transferring and other services as before. Dorm said they will use email, telephone and video conferencing. He added that the office plans to have virtual college tours, online financial literacy workshops and other virtual student engagement activities.
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He said the biggest priority for him and his staff is figuring out how to give student high-quality service from a remote location.
“Change is always hard, but we serve students and that’s where our focus is,” Dorm said about both programs he oversees. “Once we get past the newness of where things are, it gets back to how best can we serve students?”
Students looking to apply for or get in contact with Trio SSS can email [email protected]
[March 30, 12:20 p.m.] The STEM Academic and Student Success center will continue to offer advising and supplemental instruction through email, phone and video conferencing during normal business hours.
Supplemental instruction is available for Math 1314 and Biology 1406. It is similar to tutoring but is focused on classes for science majors.
Director of SASS Paula Guidry said the center is planning on using WebEx for video conferencing but said it could change as classes begin. The office has also set up Google phone numbers for students to reach out via telephone.
With the state of Texas putting a hold on TSI tests, the online math TSI-prep done through SASS has been put on hold. However, Guidry said it will start again when the TSI restarts.
Another part of the center is engagement on campus focused around STEM. Guidry said SASS is planning on having virtual career explorations, transfer sessions and other means of engagement through their social media accounts and the Eastfield app.
She said training people hasn’t been a challenge and said anytime there’s been difficulty someone addresses it.
“I’m just really impressed with our leadership with the collaborations, especially, we really can’t do this in an isolated way,” Guidry said. “We have to work together to help students, which is what we’re all about.”
You can reach the SASS center Mondays and Tuesdays 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Fridays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The email for the center is [email protected] To follow SASS on social media, search EFCSASSCENTER on Instagram and Eastfield College SASS Center on Facebook.
[March 30, 12:20 p.m.] The Business Office will continue operating under normal hours remotely through phone and email.
Students can continue making payments for classes online through their eConnect account.
Business Office executive administrator Heidi Bassett said the biggest difference for students is that they will no longer be able to pay cash for classes. She suggested students purchase a prepaid VISA or Master Card to pay for courses if they don’t have a debit or credit card. Bassett added that students should not throw this card away, because if a refund takes place it will be put back on the card.
Bassett said as of now she’s not sure what hours the office will be since only two of the six employees have VPN access, which allows them to access students’ information. She added that the best way to contact the office is through email at [email protected]
Students can still call 972-860-7301 to leave a voicemail that will be returned by an employee from a blocked number. Bassett asks that they leave their name, student ID number and a way to contact them in the message.
[March 30, 12:20 p.m.] Health centers across the district are coming together to have a nurse helpline for students and employees, but it’s not operating yet.
Senior manager of Eastfield’s health center Nancy Abdo said the telephone line will allow campus nurses to essentially do what they did before: give advice to people who are feeling sick and put them in contact with a doctor if necessary.
Abdo said all nurses across the district will work the hotline on a rotating schedule. They are trying to unveil is as soon as possible, but that there are still technical issues to figure out.
“Everybody is willing and able to do whatever they can, it’s just a matter of … how we can still offer services,” she said. “We’re always trying to be really supportive as student services … in whatever they need to be more successful in their academics.”
[March 30, 12:20 p.m.] The Office of Student Engagement and Retention oversees advising, transfer, career services and student life.
All of these modalities will continue operating in some form remotely, Dean of OSER Tania Wittgenfeld said.
“It really was an opportunity for us to take the great work that our teams are already doing and flip it into a remote work plan, and modality,” she said. “We really just were able to come together and show some unity and really just devote the time that was needed to make sure the rest of the staff and especially our students have what they need.”
Advising will be available through email, phone and video conferencing using WebEx. Wittgenfeld said advisers will be reaching out to their assigned students on Monday to update them on how services will work now that the campus is closed.
New students looking to meet with an adviser will go through the same process as before. Most of the procedures, such as the career assessment test and other registration steps were already online. Wittgenfeld said once that’s complete an adviser will reach out to the potential new student.
Students can contact advising by email at [email protected] during the normal business hours of Monday through Thursday 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Fridays 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
The transfer department will be hosting online workshops for maximizing credits and advisers will continue giving assistance.
Wittgenfeld said OSER is also looking to partner with four-year institutions to offer virtual campus tours and is looking to host online transfer watch parties with staff, faculty and administrators.
She said the virtual campus tours will allow the office to connect students with transfer universities and set up an online meeting with people from that institution.
Career Services will be available by the same means as advising.
Wittgenfeld said these services are available for all students but are typically marketed for undecided majors or prospective graduates.
For undecided majors, the department helps these students get on a path towards a career, Wittgenfeld said. Prospective graduates are given help for either entering the workforce, such as building resumes and having mock interviews, or transferring to a four-year institution.
She said these services will continue to be provided using phone or WebEx. Wittgenfeld added that career services will be using the Eastfield app to promote different job opportunities within Guided Pathways, signing up for mock interviews and data analyst systems to help build resumes.
Students can contact Career Services at [email protected] Wittgenfeld said staff checks the email throughout the day and responses are usually within 24-48 business hours.
Although campus events have been canceled since the shutdown, student life and engagement will be using the Eastfield app to connect with students.
Wittgenfeld said that office is planning on having Kahoot! games, bingo sessions and a digital scavenger hunt where students will post pictures of different household items. She added that student life will also have a social distance spirit week when classes resume.
Monday will be pajama day, Tuesday is crazy sock day, Wednesday is Christmas in March, Thursday is social distance twin day and Friday is Disney day. People will post photos in the app of themselves following that day’s theme.
Wittgenfeld said they are also going to be doing questions of the day such as “what is one thing that you are thankful for?” to have people spread positivity.
“We really want our faculty and staff administrators to participate in that so we can show how we support each other through this time,” she said. “This is really a platform for us to communicate with each other, engage and get answers out as quickly as possible.”
[March 30, 12:20 p.m.] Disbursements for financial aid are in process for classes that begin on March 30, according to an email from the DCCCD.
Students can check the status of their refunds through eConnect. Wittgenfeld said if students haven’t set up a way to receive those funds, they should do it immediately through eRefunds or else it will default to a check that takes longer to receive.
If students are selected for a verification process, visit dcccd.studentaidprocess.com. Videos and a user guide are available to help upon login, the email said.
All contact for financial aid offices is currently being through the district via email at [email protected] Help will be available 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Fridays.
To submit documents, send an email to the one above for instructions on how to submit through DCCCD’s secure site.
The process of applying for financial aid will also be different for 2020-21. Students who want financial aid for summer courses need to apply with FAFSA now for the 2020-21 semesters.
Previously financial aid was done for fall, spring and summer semesters, but now it will be for the summer, fall and spring semesters. This goes into effect on May 15.
To apply for financial aid go to fafsa.gov.