Bassole Sarah signs up for classes at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (Samantha Laurey/Special to S.F Examiner)

ESL students struggle to register online for classes

CCSF offering in-person registration for English classes to bridge language barriers, digital divide

Students hoping to learn English as a second language at City College of San Francisco have a long-awaited chance this week to register in person, temporarily removing barriers that have halved enrollment since spring,

The Department of Public Health cleared CCSF for limited in-person enrollment for the non-credit classes after the college found that students with language differences and a lack of digital access were struggling to enroll remotely.

“One of the real challenges for beginning level ESL students and all students is bridging the digital divide,” said Greg Keech, chair of the ESL Department. “We’re still having difficulty getting new students, getting old staff back, and getting students connected.”

Though non-credit enrollment numbers aren’t finalized until the end of the semester, the college has seen about 8,000 enrollments in ESL courses this term versus 17,000 in the spring, according to Keech. CCSF also cut noncredit ESL offerings from 255 classes in the spring to 183 classes this fall, according to spokesperson Rachel Howard.

Non-credit ESL students, who are frequently enrolled at the end of a semester by their teachers for the following semester, can’t fully register online. Instead, they can submit a form and are called back to complete the process, said teacher Audrey Wallace. For ESL students, who are often essential workers with multiple jobs, flexibility to adjust their classes to their shifting work schedules is crucial.

But with language, technology, and internet connectivity barriers, ESL students have had an especially difficult time enrolling. The college sought permission to offer in-person registration earlier this year, during the usual registration period, but could not get it until now.

“Online platforms were largely designed for people who could use them, who had the technology and the know-how,” Wallace said.”What happens when everybody has to use it, a lot of people fall through the cracks — especially seniors and people who don’t speak English.”

Immediately after the shift to online teaching, many instructors like Wallace recognized that they needed to keep in regular contact with students. About a dozen teachers and librarians cold-called students, posted and handed out flyers, and enlisted bilingual volunteers through the Women’s Building to help students get acclimated to the system.

Once they’re enrolled, ESL students often also have difficulty logging in with the online platform to access classes. Though Wallace said the Registrar’s Office was pretty quick to sign students up, it took a couple of days for the classes to show up in the online platform Canvas — and then teachers had to double back and make sure they knew how to access the classes.

“We must not say, ’Oh, we just can’t access this group of people, they just can’t do it,’” Wallace said. “They can but it will take time, it will take considerable effort and intentional planning.”

Wallace hopes CCSF will be able to offer in-person registration and orientation for the following semester, even though classes will also be conducted remotely. The ability to send students a simple Zoom link, rather than make them log in through a specific platform, would also make access easier, she said.

“It’s like flying an airplane while we’re building it,” Keech said. “We really are working on it, it just takes time. Everything that we’re building this semester is going to be useful next semester in figuring out ways to create access, to figure out ways to work with students to make sure that they know how to take a remote class.”

In-person ESL registration began Tuesday and will continue Wednesday and Thursday from 9a.m.-2 p.m. at the multi-use building on CCSF’s Ocean Campus. The Chinatown campus is planning to offer in-person registration next Wednesday and Thursday, and the Mission campus is also making plans, pending DPH approval.

Bay Area NewsCoronaviruseducationsan francisco news

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

 

From left: Kelley O’Neil, Monika Liu and Chandra Edelstein wait for ESL students to come sign up for classes at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (Samantha Laurey/Special to S.F Examiner)

Just Posted

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

In this handout image provided by the California Department of Corrections, convicted murderer Scott Peterson poses for a mug shot March 17, 2005 in San Quentin, California. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Peterson to death March 16 for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. (California Department of Corrections via Getty Images/TNS)
Prosecutors to retry penalty phase of Scott Peterson trial

2003 discovery of Laci Peterson’s body led to sensational high-profile murder trial of husband

Most Read