City College math professor ‘didn’t think the semester was gonna start’

Statistics professor Carolyn Thomas initially faced with resistance over her coronavirus concerns


Statistics professor Carolyn Thomas built a modified document camera to teach at home, using a tripod and an iPad. Carolyn Thomas photo

Sophia Traylor, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series of journal entries produced by City Times staff highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on members of our community.

From day one of spring semester, City College statistics professor Carolyn Thomas brought information to class regarding the now widely known coronavirus, COVID-19. Having followed the case since early January, Thomas said, “I didn’t think the semester was gonna start.”  

Homemade document camera
In order to teach her classes online, statistics professor Carolyn Thomas uses her homemade document camera to illustrate her lessons online. Carolyn Thomas photo

Thomas took the initiative to transition her MATH 119 class a week prior to the rest of the school, a testament to how serious she knew the infectious virus was.

“I’m really glad we started a week ahead for very many reasons and one of them was just the learning curve,” she said. 

In the interview, Thomas explained the difficulties that come with transitioning to online. “It’s been a real challenge … trying to get Zoom to work, oh my gosh, that was impossible,” Thomas said, “and then figuring out the Hawkes Learning System (and) connecting it to Canvas.”

She also empathizes with students moving a face-to-face class to online. 

“One of the things I count on when I teach is to be able to see people’s faces and their reactions, and I can tell if they get it or if they have questions, and that’s gone,” she said.

Although Thomas has not had any students drop the class as of March 20, she assumes that will change through the transition period. “It’s a lot to expect from people,” Thomas said.

Since that time, the San Diego Community College District announced all classes would remain online through the end of the spring and summer semesters. Screenshot
Math professor Carolyn Thomas referenced sites like in her classes to track the spread of COVID-19 from early in the term. screenshot

Thomas expressed that the general response to COVID-19 was “way too late,” later saying that the lack of widespread testing is “criminal.” 

There was also frustration from Thomas when expressing her concerns to faculty and staff from City College.“It was the week before (transitioning classes to online) that I decided to do a ‘come out of the closet’ as far as the coronavirus, and I became exceptionally vocal at work and met quite a lot of resistance,” she said. 

Other than a heavier workload at home, Thomas’ day-to-day life has not changed. She called herself an introvert and states that being quarantined at home with her spoiled cat fortunately has not negatively affected her.

Thomas advises students who are doing research on COVID-19 to go to reputable sources like for accurate graphs and numbers in the midst of daily news updates we see everyday.

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