We find ourselves entering the 23rd month of actual operation of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI). As I posted last month, we have done a huge amount of work toward creating a systemwide culture that embraces the value of online learning access for our students.
There is much to be said for the enthusiasm that the members of the CCC have shown for creating quality learning environments, and still much to be done. There is finally attention being given to online education in many corners of our community college world, and the discussions are rich and informative.
The management team has been working to reach a large number of people through the opportunities of this conference season. We were at the CCC Chief Instructional Officers (CCCCIO) Conference in San Diego recently, and were able to discuss the initiative one-on-one with these instructional leaders. I was also fortunate enough to attend the board meeting of the Chief Executive Officers of the CCC (CEOCCC) in Sacramento a few days later. Additionally, we were present at the Statewide Academic Senate Fall Plenary in Irvine. We are present in the Distance Education (DE) Coordinators’ monthly meetings, too. Continued conversations across administrative and faculty groups is a must for us to be able to serve the system effectively.
One of the things that surprised me, as a result of these visits, was that there was often a misconception that if a college adopts Canvas as its course management system, it will have to participate in the course exchange component of the OEI. Steve Klein, our Program Director at the CCC Technology Center, started months ago using an analogy of the “Let’s Make a Deal” three doors to explain that there are three options for participation with the OEI. I came up with the diagram you see to the right, but the ideas are the same and colleges may choose how to participate:
- Use the OEI resources (the free tutoring platform and/or the readiness modules) and participate in activities (such as the Course Design Standards Alignment workshops that @ONE is offering across the state).
- Use the resources and adopt Canvas as a course management system. (As of this writing, more than 27 colleges have adopted Canvas, and more are considering it now. For information about Instructure’s initial public offering status, see Phil Hill’s interview with CEO Josh Coates at Phil’s e-Literate Blog.)
- Use the resources, adopt Canvas and participate in the course exchange by either teaching courses that are open to students from other colleges, or by allowing your students to access courses from other colleges, by doing both. This option requires a college to be part of the OEI Consortium.
What Is The OEI Consortium?
The OEI Consortium is a group of colleges (currently the 24 pilots) that will agree to the processes and policies necessary for students to take classes across colleges. The first meeting was held in October with a second set for Dec. 11. All but one of the 24 pilot colleges was represented at the full-day meeting in Sacramento. Review of the current progress with Canvas implementation, with successes in using resources, and discussion of the group’s charter took center stage at the meeting. What is hoped for this OEI Consortium is that it will become the center of innovation and progress in online education for the system.
It has been really clear that because our colleges are independent institutions for the most part, agreements have to be forged that accept many common policies. We are fortunate that we now have articulated curriculum to work with and the articulation of processes is also necessary if we want students to be able to increase access to courses they need to complete their goals.
The main work of the consortium now is to work out those processes, test what we have and build a beginning of a structure that works for students. Expansion of the consortium will be defined after the pilot results have come in. Preparation for additional colleges to participate in the consortium could start as early as Spring 2017. More information about the consortium will be provided in an upcoming issue of CCC Technology for Student Success News.
24 Pilot Colleges
The 24 OEI pilot colleges have been testing resources and discussing possibilities for well over a year. Their representatives attend many meetings per month and have been working to create online opportunities for their students within their courses. They are implementing the online learner readiness tools, tutoring solutions, underprepared student resources, course review and redesign, and Canvas!
Faculty and staff involved at these colleges are owed a huge debt of gratitude from the OEI management team and the rest of the system. The goal for them truly is to increase students’ abilities to effectively complete their educational goals and these folks have been remarkable in their willingness to work hard.
OEI Steering Committee
Our steering committee has been meeting since April 2014. Throughout the year, there were many work groups creating and informing the resourcing of online education across our system. There were Requests for Proposals to process, professional development activities to design, and charters and structures to develop.
At the current time, members are serving on the professional development work group planning for future implementations, members helping to select tools needed for academic integrity solutions, and others working to develop just-in-time resources for students. There is also a work group that is addressing future accessibility resources for online courses. The steering committee members are also currently reviewing the pilot processes documentation for the OEI Course Exchange component of the initiative.
OEI Management Team
We have also been working in collaboration with the CCC Chancellor’s Office to create the legal processes needed for the exchange and to develop strategies for the future of the OEI.
Please take time to remember that there are more components of the initiative than the exchange alone. Creating quality online resources for students, faculty and colleges is the bulk of our work toward providing more access to online learning opportunities.
Beyond the meetings and conferences, we are still visiting colleges to discuss future possibilities. The management team, to date, has visited more than 50 colleges, with more visits planned through February!
There are two big events for the OEI coming up in the spring. There is a conference being planned that will combine efforts of the Academic Senate, CIOs, CCC Association for Occupational Education (CCCAOE), student services leaders and others. It’s in April in Sacramento; watch for it!
The second is the 2016 Online Teaching Conference in San Diego, June 16-17. Proposals are being accepted at www.onlineteachingconference.org.
I would like to give a huge shout-out to Anna Stirling, Micah Orloff, and Michelle Pilati for their work with @ONE. The @ONE team has been incredibly engaged in developing and re-designing courses for faculty and staff in the use of Canvas and in CMS-agnostic education in how to teach effectively online. They have hired a cadre of dedicated instructional designers and distance educators to help faculty assess their own courses, redesign them and, in the cases where Canvas is involved, in transitioning courses to the new CMS.
The @ONE environment is a humming one these days and we are amazed at how they have stepped up! So many of our CCC faculty make up the team of contracted employees who review, design and teach within the @ONE menu of activities. You can visit the site at www.onefortraining.org.
I also want to remind you that the OEI Course Design Rubric is free and available at this link. The online learner readiness modules are available, too! There is also a site within Canvas to help colleges have the conversation about adopting Canvas. I can’t leave out the free online tutoring platform—to get it contact Chris Bergeron at email@example.com. There is also a list of modules to use with under-prepared students!
On A Personal Note…
I haven’t forgotten my promise to let you know what it’s like to be serving in a leadership role for this initiative.
As we head into the holiday season, we certainly realize that 2016 is looming, and with it is the opportunity to test out the course exchange idea. For those of us on the management team and the developers at the CCC Technology Center, it means a ton of focused work ahead.
When a project such as ours begins full-scale implementation, we are apt to put our heads down and dig into the work. That might be interpreted as not being flexible, but really it’s having to actually make things function and it is quite possibly the hardest work I/we’ve ever done.
Trying to gain support and consensus in the diverse community of our system can be exhausting. Beyond the requirements of constant travel (I will be or was gone from home for at least three days per week from Oct. 1 through Dec. 15), come the arguments from those who don’t, can’t or won’t understand what the fully resourced approach to online learning is about. We face the fears of our community on a daily basis. The question often is, “If we participate in large scale innovation, what will we lose?” I ask, “If we don’t innovate, what will students lose?”
Granted, online learning environments aren’t for everyone, nor should they be, but online access to education is not going away and access to affordable and excellent education is important to sustaining our world. Ask around and you will find that for many people, taking classes online is the ONLY way they have to access, continue or complete an education. (I have an immediate family of seven adults, five of whom have or are currently taking accredited courses online because it’s the only access they can get.) We owe it to our students and to ourselves to make it the best experience it can be. The online learning environments in the CCC must be exceptional to match the exceptional work we do in our traditional environments.
What is the quote adapted by President Lincoln? “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” I have to say that this is certainly true. Very often we find ourselves squashed between competing groups and concerns, feeling attacked and unappreciated, questioned continually about our “motives”.
We have no motives. Rather we have intention. Our intention is to help our students actually get through our two-year programs in as close to two years as possible! We intend to collaborate with everyone across the system to learn how to serve our students better. We intend to focus on students as our students, not students of one college or another but students of our state. We intend to increase access to education for people who want and need it in California.
My question is, who is in? The work of balancing student needs with fiscal reality is not easy work and emotions sometimes run high. Keeping what is best for students in mind is going to help us work better together. Not everyone working in education has that philosophy so we are looking to work with those who do.
I want to take a minute to thank those of you who read this blog and take the time to understand. I’d like to thank people who don’t attack but ask how they can help. I’d like to thank the teams at Foothill-De Anza Community College District, the CCC Technology Center and the CCC Chancellor’s Office, our pilot colleges (especially the single-point-of-contact heroes) and in our steering committee and work groups, who are working hard to make the dream of high-quality online learning access for our students a reality.
We will be at the Community College League of California (CCLC) Annual Convention in San Francisco this week, and hope to see some of you there!