A lot has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and much of the work done on behalf of the ASCCC related to teaching and learning has shifted dramatically. Significant adjustments, both personal and professional, have been adapted to and require everyone to think about the opportunities and challenges of the new reality in the hybrid world of work. While at times in-person experiences may be preferred to better achieve intended outcomes, in a new reality faculty can handle many aspects of their roles and responsibilities effectively and efficiently in a virtual environment.
The world of COVID-19 has opened up the opportunity of online professional learning, expanding access for faculty to attend ASCCC events, including fall and spring plenaries. Some faculty are excited about returning to in-person events, while others have expressed varied challenges with the opportunities. In Fall 2021, delegates to the ASCCC plenary session passed Resolution 1.05 F21, resolving, “The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges should make remote attendance an option at all ASCCC-organized events, including plenary sessions.” At the December 2021 ASCCC Executive Committee meeting, three specific areas were identified regarding the effectiveness of future events, which include a commitment to maximizing access, engagement, and impact.
In an effort to meet the needs of all faculty, the ASCCC has been offering events in various modalities, recognizing that no one way will work for everyone throughout the system. Although no virtual or hybrid event can replicate the feelings and experiences of being in person, the ASCCC is committed to providing faculty high quality professional development and learning opportunities that are accessible, engaging, and impactful.
For the more than fifty years of the ASCCC and pre COVID-19, the majority of academic senate leaders and delegates were able to attend in-person ASCCC events. Attendance depended on cost and local budgets, support from administrators, travel accommodations, distance, and impact on teaching and learning as well as personal life obligations. With these various dynamics, inevitably no one event was accessible to everyone, although the hope was that at least one faculty member of each college could attend. The reality of attending in-person does come with potential impacts or consequences, including impacts to regular roles and responsibilities such as missing a class or sacrificing personal obligations.
Hybrid and virtual options have opened access to ASCCC events for faculty who were not physically able to attend or choose not to attend in-person due to other circumstances. Other faculty members are clamoring for in-person options, looking for the energy, networking, and hallway conversations that are not able to be replicated in a virtual environment. Through ASCCC event surveys and regular dialogue around the impacts of the changing modalities of our events, the Executive Committee has determined that a hybrid model provides the most access to meet the needs of the faculty.
The ASCCC is committed to creating equitable opportunities for engagement among colleagues. The ASCCC mission, as stated on our website, is as follows: “As the official voice of California community college faculty in academic and professional matters, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) is committed to equity, student learning and student success.” ASCCC events are the primary way the organization supports faculty so they are able to make an impact at both the state and local levels as pertaining to academic and professional matters. The information that is learned and shared at events makes an impact on local academic senates, faculty, and students.
In order to provide the valuable experience that the ASCCC intends, the organization makes an ongoing and concerted attempt to present events where faculty can choose how they engage. However, this goal impacts the cost of ASCCC events. Some individuals might insist that since they are not attending in-person and are not provided meals and swag, they should be charged a lower cost. Those who attend an event in-person may insist that they should not have to pay for the extra technology or staffing needed for online accessibility. While this situation is an overarching predicament, the ASCCC will continue to dialogue and debate the fee structure in order to provide the most access, engagement, and impact, taking everything into consideration to cover the cost of the event however individuals choose to attend. For the 2022 Spring Plenary, the ASCCC is experimenting with a single cost structure for all attendees. This model ensures that all attendees pay the same price regardless of how they choose to attend the event.
The ASCCC is a non-profit organization and determines the cost to participants in order to cover expenses, not to make a profit when addressing the professional learning needs of faculty. In fact, the ASCCC will often take a loss, sometimes significant, in order to provide faculty the resources and tools at events that ultimately support student success. In taking all of these components into consideration, the goal of the ASCCC is to be transparent in how we determine costs so we can empower each individual faculty member to decide how each wants to engage in ASCCC events.
Providing access and engagement to all does come at a cost, both to individuals and the ASCCC organization. The fiscal cost is substantial due to the fact that the ASCCC is focused on equitable and enhanced engagement through a virtual environment. Creating a hybrid event is not as easy as just adding an extra laptop or using a cell phone to record. The ASCCC is committed to ensuring that all faculty who attend have the opportunity to engage and interact with the presenter and other attendees, although inevitable nuances and issues arise that complicate offering an ideal experience. The ASCCC must cover costs for additional staffing requirements and the platform in order to conduct the event as well as two-way interactive technology for general sessions, breakouts, debate, and voting. Costs for access to technology for full engagement by attendees and enhanced internet can range from $50,000 to $83,000 more than the traditional costs of events.
Other impacts the ASCCC intends to be mindful of when conducting events are the additional costs related to the personal sacrifices when away from normal life routines and obligations, the cost to sustainability and environmental impact, and the need for self-care when faced with a determination of choices that vary and are widely distinct based on the realities of individual lives. For some, the impact of the pandemic has changed, strengthened, or confused one’s determination on what is efficient and effective for each faculty member to represent the faculty voice as well as learn and develop as a leader.
Whether one chooses to attend an ASCCC event in person, virtually, or in a hybrid format, one can expect intentional efforts to provide accessible formats, engaging presentations, impactful conversations and chats, and the collective empowerment, leadership, and voice of faculty joined together.