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Shortage of face-to-face communications courses impacts students

Mariana+Veloso+is+a+guest+columnist+from+the+%22Writing+for+the+Media%22+Communications+course.+
Mariana Veloso is a guest columnist from the

Mariana Veloso is a guest columnist from the "Writing for the Media" Communications course.

Mariana Veloso is a guest columnist from the "Writing for the Media" Communications course.

Mariano Veloso, Guest Columnist

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Online classes provide students who live busy lifestyles (whether that be a working mother, a business owner or even just a college student trying to make ends meet), the opportunity to attend any school with a more flexible schedule. With this said, some universities, like The University of Texas at the Permian Basin (UTPB), have taken this concept and, in some instances like in the Communication major, made it an ultimatum. For the UTPB Communication major discipline, there are only two permanent face-to-face professors along with others that offer some courses here and there. With this, there is a substantial deficiency in the number of courses that a Communication major can take face-to-face, which is also true for other curriculums at UTPB like Sociology, Spanish, and various others. So, what is the solution to accommodate all those enrolled? Hybrid or blended courses. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, a hybrid or blended course is defined as “a course in which a majority (more than 50 percent but less than 85 percent), of the planned instruction, occurs when the students and instructor(s) are not in the same place.” This option offers a compromise between the preferences of the school while allowing students to have versatility in their modes of education.

Every student learns and lives differently, so, when a university creates an environment where a student who excels primarily in lecture-based courses must take an online class or vice versa, that university is limiting its ability to draw in more students. Granted, the majors in question are not the primary source of incoming students at UTPB, but that does not mean that such majors should get the short end of the stick. For example, according to CareerQuest.edu, communication is one of the top “soft skills” that employers look for in new hires, as seen in surveys. This is because “they want new employees to be able to listen, act and then explain those actions.” Therefore, communication is an attribute that all those employed must learn how to do effectively. It can help a doctor or nurse successfully tell a patient about his or her health issues, it can help a teacher tell her student and his or her parents about how to help that student excel, and, in the very least, it can aid anyone in nailing an interview with a possible employer. This knowledge should never be taken for granted and no one must need to compromise to get it.

One thing that must be acknowledged when viewing this argument is that there is a statewide hiring freeze and, as the Odessa American recently reported, UTPB President David Watts sent out an email to the university community informing that “the freeze is effective (at UTPB) now through Aug. 31 of this year.” This means that “‘no new or vacant positions can be filled or posted if those positions are paid from state appropriated funds. … The governor’s intent apparently also includes a freeze on position reclassifications and promotions,’ the email said,” according to the Odessa American article. With this clarified, one can see how the solution cannot be to hire more faculty, at least not for now. However, the solution should also not be to add multiple online courses to combat the lack of resources, as it is thought to be now. The fix that should be seriously considered is hybrid or blended classes. As stated previously, because of the more fluid nature of such courses, hybrid or blended courses allow professors to attend to those students that prefer the online course platform while not making students who excel primarily in face-to-face classes compromise. This format can allow students to receive all information about the assignments, quizzes, and exams from online while allowing students who prefer face-to-face courses to interact with the professor in a way that they can better comprehend the material.

Another issue that demonstrates the necessity of this change is the majors in which it is affecting. Focusing on communication, this program is all about learning how to converse persuasively and listen effectively with others and, although today more and more online communication training is needed, people are losing touch with the fact that at the end of the day it is about interacting with people. How will students who receive a communication major from UTPB effectively apply their knowledge into a future career if they are unable to apply such skill into the real world? The lessons are necessary, the techniques are applicable, but one will not know how well they are using the knowledge without the guidance a face-to-face class can provide. Not everyone needs to take a face-to-face lecture class to succeed in their career, but some need that personal guidance to apply the training and it is perplexing that those who learn better in a lecture setting must be forced to compromise their education simply because the university cannot supply accommodating courses. Is it not stated in the mission statement of UTPB that their goal is “to provide quality education to all qualified students?” Is it not so that if a group of students receives a more beneficial education face-to-face, they must do so to receive such a “quality education?” Avoiding this concern is how affordable universities cause good students to have to choose the more expensive option because it offers more variety.

Hybrid or blended courses are a way of accommodating the needs of the customers to the university business, the students. The fundamental application of college is about gaining the training for the preferred career each individual student is choosing to endeavor into. Since this comes with the process of picking the “right” college, UTPB should do everything in its power to acknowledge the needs of its possible customers because sometimes being one of the most affordable universities is not enough. UTPB, because of its small stature, offers a unique opportunity for students to create relationships with professors who learn how to successfully apply the learning material to their needs, if necessary. Though, this plus is being dreadfully wasted because curriculum options are turning students’ way with the lack of face-to-face course availability. This is more than just a concern of beneficial training, this is a concern of the attraction and flexibility that UTPB can instill when it puts its students first.

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Shortage of face-to-face communications courses impacts students