Cosmetology students adjust to virtual learning


Cosmetology student Cole Phillips poses with the mannequins he uses for his classes. Philips has created a space dedicated to his cosmetology work. Camden Foster/ The Union

Through all the trials and tribulations that the coronavirus has brought to El Camino College, students in the cosmetology department have discovered strength in a familiar resource; family.

Cosmetology major and mother of two, Jerica Caradine finds it difficult to keep up with her work and take care of her children, but she doesn’t get discouraged because it’s her family that keeps her going.

“My baby boy is actually the motivation,” Caradine said.

Caradine brings her son to school in the mornings before 9 a.m., so that she can be home for her zoom lectures by then.

“I have to take him to go get his education so now it’s Mommy’s turn to get hers,” she said.

While taking safety precautions for the coronavirus, Caradine manages to still serve her clients.

“I tell them to come with their masks, I have them wash their hands and I only see them one person at a time,” she said.

Caradine, 28, will complete her 1600 hours requirement for her Associates of Science degree in cosmetology on Sept. 25. She was originally going to complete her hours on Jun. 5, 2020, but COVID-19 slowed the process down.

Both students and professors in the cosmetology department have made many adjustments for online learning because cosmetology is predominantly hands-on.

Adjunct professor of cosmetology, Yumi Youn has found more ease in transitioning to virtual platforms because she has taught cosmetology virtually since 2017.

“When I started to teach online people thought I’m crazy. Students even thought; can we really learn?” Youn said. “Anyway, I’ve been pretty successful for the last few years and I’m pretty confident and we are going to get there.”

The majority of the students were shocked and some professors faced problems getting students clear instructions on attendance and participation, but after some time students have adapted, Youn said.

While Youn may be familiar with virtual teaching, some of her fellow faculty members and her students have had a rougher time adapting to this new way of learning.

Adjunct professor of cosmetology, Michelle Cooper, said it has been a technically challenging transition. Using cameras as a primary way of teaching is different because typically cosmetology is all hands-on and face to face.

“For me, I think the hair color is the hardest because you can’t see the true color or the true placement because it’s all backward,” Cooper said.

20-year-old cosmetology major, Cole Phillips, said that the hair coloring classes have been the most difficult for him as well.

“Being able to see specific partings or how a teacher is holding the hair, that has been a little difficult,” Phillips said. “But our teachers, to their own credit they have never done this before either.”

Phillips has found help from his family. While he has mainly been working on mannequins, he uses his family members as models when he gets the chance.

“I did my mom actually for a pedicure for an assignment not too long ago,” Phillips said.

Youn also said that it has been very common this semester for students to be working on their family members when they get the chance.

According to Caradine, students start their day with lectures and demonstrations over zoom and then have the rest of the day to work on the assignments. To submit their work the professors require them to take pictures of their progress every step of the way.

Being online has created more work for both the students and the professors. According to Cooper, there is a disconnect with being virtual because the students can’t get instant feedback.

“By the time I have watched their videos and I get back to them they are already done and moved on,” Cooper said.

Another roadblock facing cosmetology students is lack of devices and internet connection, Youn said. Some students don’t have access to laptops or Chrome books and are relying on their phones to complete coursework.

Since the beginning of the semester, some cosmetology students received access to devices through the ECC laptop loan program. However, at the start of the year there was a delay in students receiving this aid, Youn said.

While families have been a big help for students in the department, constantly being with them in tight quarters can create other challenges. For some students that means not always having access to devices because they are sharing. For others, it means trying to find the space to get their work done.

“My older one is in class on Zoom, so it’s like we‘d both be on Zoom at the same time and there is not that much space you can go in the house,” Caradine said.

For other students, such as Phillips, space has not been an issue.

“It really has been an experience,” Phillips said. “I recognize that I have the luxury of having a whole room dedicated to helping me grow and form my craft.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the El Camino campus, Phillips misses “the ability to get one on one with the teachers,” but recognizes that the Professors are trying their best to answer all of the student’s questions.

“That and the café,” Phillips added. “Now I have to make my own lunch.”

However, Phillips isn’t the only one missing El Camino right now.

“I miss the whole atmosphere of being on campus, I feel like I was more energized,” Caradine said. “Now it’s just like I’m at home and I don’t feel like doing this assignment today.”