Elgrie Jones Hurd III has taught every grade from kindergarten to 12th, as well as graduate school. He has been a dean of student services at a private college, developed a tutoring program at a chiropractic school and ran an Upward Bound program for a community college.
What the professor hasn’t done, before now, is try to help students navigate their educational journeys in the face of a pandemic. Hurd III, who teaches sociology and psychology at the Brookhaven campus of Dallas College in Farmers Branch, Texas, said he has seen his own students struggle with online learning.
“We underestimate the digital divide,” he said. “We are asking students to use technology they haven’t had to use before. We underestimate the resources students have.”
The Cal Poly Pomona alumnus (‘04, sociology) hopes to offer some guidance to faculty, staff and students during a virtual workshop on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 5 p.m. titled “Closing the Pandemic Digital Divide.”
The workshop will provide context to the challenges that educators and students are facing in the wake of COVID19, touching specifically on how to make connections in a world where social distancing has become necessary. The idea is to give both educators and students tools they can use, he said.
“One of the points of the session is to contextualize and encourage people to have empathy,” he said. “Students are stressed out. The people educating them are just as stressed out. I will be giving some simple best practices for educators, showing them how to increase communication with their students.”
Hurd III, who also provides trainings on industrial organizational psychology, said he learned one lesson the hard way with the transition to remote learning.
“I assumed all people taking online classes knew how to navigate our management system,” he said. “I had students who didn’t know how to upload a paper to the system.”
Many students don’t check their emails. It is important that educators try other means of communication to keep students engaged, such as group chat apps, he added.
In the workshop, Hurd III also plans to encourage students to become their own advocates for education by being proactive and learning key campus academic policies.
He recalled attending Cal Poly Pomona on a scholarship. The Northern California native was far from home, and his parents didn’t have the means to support him financially through college. It was the support system he forged on campus that helped him to stay on track, but not every student has the support they need, he said.
“We’ve lost a sense of community and caring for others,” he said. “The pandemic has shown us that there are holes in support systems and huge gaps depending on who you are and where you are.”
While at Cal Poly Pomona, Hurd III said he was able to have diverse experiences – from pledging Alpha Phi Alpha, an African American fraternity, to participating in a documentary on civil rights to helping plan and oversee cultural celebrations. He forged a family on campus, and met his wife. Althea (‘04, gender ethnicity multicultural studies). That sense of community is what prompted him to offer the virtual workshop, he said.
“One of the great things about being at Cal Poly Pomona is that people paid it forward,” he said. “That is the legacy that CPP has left with me. People made opportunities for me to thrive. I always wanted to find a way to give back, and then this opportunity came.”