MCCC is breaking new ground with its first online laboratory course.
After an hour of contentious debate on Thursday, Nov. 30, Chemistry 155 was approved by the Curriculum Committee.
Tensions were high at the meeting.
Those in favor of the course felt like students deserve an online option.
Those against it felt like the college was “watering down” its degree.
“These people are bullies,” said professor Parnella Baul, who voted for the course.
Chemistry 155 was approved as a course by a vote of 7-2 and as a General Education (Gen Ed) requirement by a vote of 5-4.
It will begin in Fall Semester 2018
Having Chemistry 155 qualify as a Gen Ed requirement paves the way for MCCC to offer a fully online certificate or degree.
“Chemistry 155 is a survey course on how chemistry impacts our lives on a day-to-day basis,” professor Lori Bean said.
Bean, who developed and will be teaching the course, said she did not want to step on her colleague’s toes.
“My goal is not to steal away anyone’s current students,” Bean said. “It’s to attract a small niche who either don’t want to have to come up to late labs or can’t come to campus for labs at all.”
The college has been hoping to create a class like this since at least 2015, as shown by objective 4.3 in the 2015-2018 Strategic Enrollment Plan. It states the college wants to “develop and market a program that can be completed fully online.”
“We live in the 21st century, where entire degrees are being offered online by very reputable institutions around the world,” President Kojo Quartey said. “Being able to offer a fully online degree means that we at MCCC are getting closer to where the rest of the world is.”
Though some professors in the Science and Math Division opposed the course, many MCCC students seem to see the benefits.
“I think it’s wonderful that the college provides a degree path through only online classes,” said student Nathan Grodi. “It is very convenient for people who live farther away, as well as those who have busy, ever-changing schedules.”
Students like Javed Peracha realize the benefits of a fully online degree for parents and those who do not have the time.
“MCCC fully recognizes that some people, like new parents, single parents, or full-time workers, usually do not have the time to attend classes at a college campus,” Peracha said. “Chemistry 155 will allow people with busy schedules to earn their degrees with all online classes.”
Other students, like Emma Muth, can see both sides of the issue.
“On one hand, I like that it gives students the ability to customize their college experience,” Muth said. “Though I am not one of those people, I know there are some who prefer online classes.”
However, Muth questions how a chemistry lab at home would be run.
“On the other hand,” Muth said, “I have a hard time believing an at-home kit will be able to replicate the functions of lab equipment.”
Ultimately, Bean is optimistic about the course.
“Chemistry 155 was developed to offer an opportunity for our students that to this point does not exist for them,” Bean said.
MCCC students are also hopeful.
“Online classes are an important advancement that MCCC needed to invest in to stay relevant, and I am happy they did so,” Grodi said.
“MCCC is truly ‘enriching the lives’ of Southeast Michiganders,” Peracha said.
Another class that was narrowly approved as a Gen Ed satisfier by the Curriculum Committee was Business Math 141.
This class, which was proposed by Professor Pat Nedry, was intended for students majoring in business.
However, Vice President of Instruction Grace Yackee announced to faculty at the beginning of Winter Semester that the class would not be allowed as a Gen Ed satisfier. She said it was too specific to Business students.
Yackee did not respond to multiple requests for an interview by the Agora.
Nedry was not happy with the decision.
“They’ve created a myth that Gen Ed needs to come out of transfer divisions,” Nedry said.
He also said there needs to be more consideration as to what the students’ needs are.
“We spoke with a number of companies about what they were looking for in relation to math,” Nedry said. “And most enterprises don’t use financial calculators.”
He said the reasoning behind the creation of Math 141 was to expose students to the areas of math they will actually use.
“What Professor Nedry has been saying is ‘we need a more practical math course’,” said History professor Edmund La Clair, chair of the Curriculum Committee.
Nedry does not understand why business students have to take algebra.
“Businesses want to see an increased experience with Excel, for instance,” Nedry said.
The two course controversies, with Chemisty 155 and Math 141, have highlighted divisions that exist within the college.
“We don’t seem to be moving toward a resolution,” Nedry said.
At its Jan. 16 meeting, the Faculty Council postponed a proposal by Nedry to review the entire Gen Ed process at its February meeting.
Instead, the faculty voted to listen to a presentation by Yackee on the topic at its February meeting and hold the vote in March.