Challenges arise in Cosmetology Dept. with online-only format


Rocio Valdez

Stephanie Mora, a cosmetology student at Cerritos, practicing hands-on before Cerritos College closed due to COVID-19, March 13.

Jazmin Taha and Kianna Znika

Both students and faculty have expressed some concerns about the cosmetology program’s transition to an online-only format.

“Our concerns, not just for me but I know also a few of my classmates, is that now we aren’t able to work hands-on and practice, so will we be really ready when we are out on our own?,” said Stephanie Mora, a cosmetology student at Cerritos College.

One of her biggest challenges is not being able to perform a skin analysis and not being able to practice in-person to analyze properly.

“The more practice, the better, although this whole COVID-19 has taken a bit of my motivation I do still log on to my class and perform my classwork,” Mora said.

Janet Ramirez-Han, department chair and cosmetology instructor, said, “Luckily for us, we didn’t really have new students coming into the program, they already knew some hands-on stuff.”

“That way they can kind of perfect those things they were taught the first nine weeks,” she added.

Han said she wasn’t sure at first if the department would be able to change into an online-only teaching format because they are used to the hands-on environment it has been “quite an adjustment.”

Han had to get the okay from the state board to ensure students will still get credit for their online classes.

The cosmetology students didn’t need to be taught any new hands-on services and are working on perfecting their skills at home which has been a big plus in this situation.

“We decided at the beginning we weren’t going to use certain tools. For example, the shears, the curling irons,” Hann said, “Anything that can cause some kind of safety issues.”

Students have voiced their concerns to Hann and other instructors, stating they want to continue doing haircuts. Safety issues are the biggest concern of the department, Han explained.

Safety decisions were made in the beginning based on feedback from other schools but the department is “thinking of some kind of liability waiver.”

“We’re listening to their concerns and we’re going to come up with something,” Han said.

Judith Long, another cosmetology instructor at Cerritos, said, “The department had to change what we would normally accept for a procedure set up due to problems with getting disinfection supplies and hand sanitizer.”

Not all students were able to gather all their supplies before the school announced their closure, and with the little notice instructors weren’t able to give their students supplies.

Long’s class had expressed concern to her about online learning.

“They did mention they get a procedure signed off more quickly than in class,” Long said.

The cosmetology department is “a 75% lab-based program” and not being able to have that face-to-face, one-on-one demonstration is challenging for both students and the instructors.

“I can verbally explain how to tie your shoelaces, but you are more likely to be able to tie your own if I show you at the same time and/or I catch a movement going in the wrong direction,” Long said. “They would like to be able to use their thermal tools for real and complete haircuts with their shears, not just clippers- It’s limiting.”

Instructors are allowing students to perform simulations of procedures that require some equipment that is only available at the school, like school-skin care electro-therapy machines.

“We had to limit what procedures they are able to perform at home because of liability issues being off-campus without a licensed professional on hand,” Long said.

During Long’s Friday advanced class, students work on their doll heads and work on hairstyling, bleach application, facials and makeup application.

The students log into Zoom and work on their doll head until they are finished and show Long their work.

She watches them on screen and steps in if one of her students missed a step or needs some guidance.

When it comes to switching mid-semester to an online-only format, it is bound to be challenging. Not being able to perform all the services they need to practice for the state board exam to get their license is one of the challenges.

The students are using Cengage to track their hours, completing assignments and helping them review the book for their State Board Exam.

Hann said the hours needed to get their license won’t change but the board of barbering and cosmetology has pushed back the exam to May 11.

“It gives the students more time to practice,” Han added.

A problem with an online-only format is that some students in the program don’t have computers, which wasn’t a problem before the school closure.

Students are also telling their instructors about WiFi difficulties during class, including their cameras freezing up and their instructor not being able to see them or they can’t hear what the instructor is saying.

“I think another thing about online learning is you never really stop working, I feel like you’re constantly working, constantly receiving emails from students,” Han said. “Day by day, it gets better. It’s just been stressful because every day is something new. I think that’s how it is for anything that’s new.”