Welcome to month 24 of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI). This month’s blog will give you some detailed updates on the initiative. It is also dedicated to the people who are making it work, one day, one step, one solution at a time.
As I continue my efforts to keep you all informed about the OEI, I am reminded that there’s more to information than the “update” elements. When a project of this magnitude is underway, documenting the fundamental nature of the activity may be just as important as documenting the activity itself. I started this blog to document not only the advancing of the work, but to keep track of how the people involved are doing and what we are learning as we progress in this process of designing and implementing the enormous goals of this project.
To that end, the first part of this month’s post is composed of fairly detailed updates. The second is about what it’s been like for those of us working to make online education available to and effective for the students of California.
From Planning To Implementation
We have really moved from a design and planning stage into one that is focused on implementation. We are still involved with planning additional elements of the OEI, but the bulk of the work right now is implementing the primary components of a statewide online education program.
Enthusiastic adoption of a statewide course management system:
- Forty-one colleges have adopted the Canvas course management infrastructure since July 1, 2015, and are in various stages of implementation for a full campus use. Ongoing support coordination continues between program staff, college staff and Instructure to enable implementation. Add in the six colleges that adopted Canvas prior to statewide selection and 47 of California’s 113 community colleges have made the change.
- The OEI projection is that over half of the colleges will have adopted Canvas by summer of 2016.
Pilot Colleges Offer Resourced Courses:
- Courses offered during the pilot phase continue to transition to the Canvas course management system and also deploy OEI resources including student readiness modules (Quest for Online Success), online tutoring solutions (NetTutor and Link Systems’ World Wide White Board), course review and instructional design support, accessibility review, just-in-time resources for underprepared students, and soon to be added academic integrity support.
- NetTutor online tutoring is offered free (paid by the OEI) for Winter/Spring 2016 for all online courses at the 24 pilot colleges, in addition to the OEI courses.
- Link Systems’ World Wide White board, which connects local college tutors with their students online, is available at no cost to all colleges in the system, and are in use by all 24 pilot colleges, plus many other colleges across the state. (For further information please visit the OEI Website at www.CCCOnlineEd.org.)
- Online Learner Readiness:
- Quest for Online Success readiness diagnostics and readiness modules have been combined into a course in the Canvas CMS and are being deployed within the pilot college courses.
- The readiness modules are undergoing a further accessibility update to be ready by Fall 2016. The modules are compliant with current Section 508 compliance standards and are being upgraded to exceed them by achieving WCAG 2.0 standards.
- All 11 modules are Creative Commons-licensed, and are available at the OEI website. They are also available as a complete course integrated into the Canvas CMS infrastructure for colleges that are not in the pilot but have adopted Canvas.
- Course section data for Winter and Spring 2016: Twenty of the 24 pilot colleges have provided us with pilot course section data. To date, there are 103 sections, with enrollment capacity of 4,058 and an average class size of 40. Full-term course start dates range from Jan. 14 to Feb. 22, with short-term courses starting between Jan. 2 and April 4.
Academic integrity activities progress:
- Proctoring/Authentication for exams: A contract was signed with Proctorio on Dec 23, 2015, as part of our Academic Integrity RFP process. The agreement allows all 24 pilot colleges to utilize the Proctorio plugin for exam proctoring, lockdown and exam identity verification at no cost while continuing participation in the OEI pilot. For the 24 colleges, the agreement covers OEI pilot courses, other online courses in Canvas, as well as online courses in pilot colleges’ existing or legacy LMS. Low-cost adoption for other colleges will be available through system-negotiated pricing with the Foundation for the California Community Colleges.
- Plagiarism services update: The project team has been working to assess the status of existing contracts with plagiarism detection providers and to identify a “bridge” solution for Winter and Spring 2016 for pilot colleges. Negotiations with Turnitin.com brought confirmation that the 16 pilot colleges with existing Turnitin contracts can integrate Turnitin into those colleges’ Canvas instance at no cost. Efforts to secure a plagiarism solution with reasonable pricing that is able to serve all of the colleges in the pilot and later across the CCC will continue in the months to come.
CCC Course Exchange component:
- The goal of the exchange component is to enable students to complete their educational goals in a timely manner.
- The exchange of students taking courses across colleges is on target to begin in Fall 2016, initially with a pilot group of eight colleges testing the registration mechanism.
- Results of the fall pilot phase will inform further development of reciprocity agreements and registration technology going into Spring 2017.
- Additional benefits of the exchange, such as cross-college collaboration to increase degrees offered, are being considered.
Professional development activities are in full swing:
A variety of activities have been happening in a robust partnership between the OEI and the @ONE project. For information about when additional professional development opportunities will be available, please check out the OEI website calendar.
- Train the Trainer (TTT): This one-day training prepares staff at a college to teach Canvas to their faculty using @ONE’s four-week online course. TTT events have been held at Ohlone, Los Angeles Pierce and Rio Hondo colleges. To date, 78 people have received this training. The next trainings will be Feb. 9 at Contra Costa College and March 4 at Orange Coast College, and are available to colleges who have committed to Canvas adoption.
- Applying the OEI Course Design Rubric: This one-day training serves as an introduction to the OEI Course Design Rubric for any faculty and staff that wish to learn more about it. This training is the first part of the training to be a Peer Online Course Reviewer. Trainings have been held at Foothill, Mt. San Antonio, Cerritos, American River, Fresno City, Shasta, Los Medanos, Evergreen Valley, Santa Barbara City and Rio Hondo colleges, and the Online Teaching Conference. Approximately 300 people have attended this training. The next “Applying” training will be March 4 at Orange Coast College.
- Introduction to Teaching with Canvas: Sections of this four-week online course continue to fill rather quickly. Four full sections of this course started on Jan. 11. Four more sections will start Feb. 22. Two sections will start on April 4, with more offerings in the works!
- Course Reviews, Re-Reviews and ID Support: Over 95 reviews of pilot courses have been completed. Over 20 courses have already had re-reviews completed in the Canvas CMS. The next re-review cycle begins Feb. 1. Instructional design support is available to faculty in the pilot colleges prior to review.
- Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning Courses: These courses continue to be offered through @ONE, however, a new 12-week comprehensive course is in development and should be offered in early Spring 2016.
Counselors will not be left out!
Counseling online students is an important component of a college’s distance education program, and one that is required to meet accreditation standards. The OEI has been developing a program designed to meet the complex needs of this activity.
After eight months of hard work and planning, the OEI has selected a meeting and collaboration platform, which will serve as the technological anchor and foundation of its Online Counselors’ Network Project. On behalf of the OEI, The Foundation for California Community Colleges made the announcement of its intent to award the contract to Cranium Café of Salt Lake City, Utah. The launch of the Online Counselors’ Network and the use of Cranium Café services is intended to begin mid-Spring 2016. Stay tuned!
The OEI Steering Committee developed guidelines for use of publisher materials in CCC online courses. It takes a stand on effective practice that provides the balance between using third-party materials and the presence of the instructor and instructor-created elements of a course. The resulting document will be available soon on the new OEI website.
In the second half of this post, I wanted to highlight the experiences of the people who are working incredibly hard to make the OEI a reality. First, though, I considered the word “initiative”. I took a look at a simple definition:
- The power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task; enterprise and determination.
- A beginning or introductory step; an opening move: took the initiative in trying to solve the problem.
- a) The power or right to introduce a new legislative measure.
- b) The right and procedure by which citizens can propose a law by petition and ensure its submission to the electorate.
I have to say that the members of the OEI team, the vital members of our steering committee, the newly formed consortium group, the faculty and staff working in the pilots and the people of our Chancellor’s Office definitely have “the power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task!”
For the team I work daily with, this is the most difficult but rewarding work we have ever done. We work remotely, which may sound great. You’re thinking that we get to work from home, but you would be wrong to assume that. We each spend an average of three days per week traveling to Sacramento or to colleges up and down the state. On top of the extensive travel schedules, we meet online daily with each other and the colleagues in the field in a variety of group configurations. The collaboration doesn’t ever stop and, in between, we implement decisions and make technology work for us. We really could write a book about the problems and benefits of working remotely. It’s not a piece of cake.
I decided to ask a few people to comment on what it’s like working in this initiative. One of our team members commented: “Going in, I knew I would be learning a lot, but I never could have guessed what those lessons would entail. No matter the surprises or what the twists in the road have revealed, I feel fortunate to have been able to work with such dedicated and talented individuals from all across California to make the OEI a reality.” This attitude is common to every member of our OEI team. I think we started with some expectation that it would not be easy, but what we’ve been learning dwarfs any preconceptions of what this would be like.
Another said: “It’s exciting, and a bit scary, to go where no initiative has gone before.” I have to agree that it is scary to try to get such a large, independent group of colleges to move in one direction about something but it is truly moving. It’s a testament both to those doing the work and to the willingness of California educators to put students first and to share effective teaching practices.
The “scariness” also arises because we are always under the microscope, so to speak, open to the criticism of so many people watching for us to make a mistake or fail. The thing we are learning is that mistakes as well as successes, make up the strong fiber of this initiative and we are tracking both to inform the future of this and other initiatives that may follow it. Nevertheless, the “weight of the world” is always there. We try to minimize that scary feeling, and do appreciate your positive comments from time to time. We especially need your understanding and support to make this successful. The word “relax” doesn’t come up much.
Another management team member told me: “This has been the most energizing, creative and challenging work I have ever done.” I can certainly second that! Along with the challenges of being under continual scrutiny, come the joys of accomplishing shared goals. The day we selected a statewide course management system is one of many joyful moments, and I think back on it often when I begin to get weighed down.
There are moments of fun, too. Last week, several of us attended the fantastic, first-ever Instructional Design and Innovation institute hosted by the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges. We had amazing discussions about the use of publisher materials in our online courses, among other things. We also had fun looking at the Myths part of the readiness modules! Just being together with so many colleagues across the state is a wonderful experience.
The last comment I’d like to share is from the management team, too: “One of the benefits of being an academic is that you always get to start over–if you have a challenging term, you just have to get through it and you can start anew. While there are some constants, there is also constant change. The constants are hard to find with respect to the OEI. New challenges and new accomplishments are around every corner. We have challenging minutes, days and weeks to get through. But we also have little wins to keep us moving forward as we venture forward into uncharted territory. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
The driving force that keeps us going is the knowledge that we are doing something special for our California students. Chancellor Harris called the goals we are working on “Herculean,” and it is important that we remember that doing something this difficult, in a way no one else has done, can sometimes be exhausting and frustrating. I want to thank those of you who are working so hard for our students. You are amazing.