OEI Updates: Working Smarter To Help Students Succeed

While presenting recently, I used a PowerPoint slide that broke all of the style rules. It had way too much stuff on it, lots of writing crammed onto one small screen space. I did it on purpose. It was the list of what we have accomplished in two years! I call it the “WOW” slide and I’ve included it below.

We have known for years, as we worked in an environment of constant scarcity, what our “wish list” of resources for online teaching and learning would be and we are finally able to make it happen. It makes sense that what we have been developing would also be the items called out in theACCJC distance education guidelines!

It’s important that we all agree that online students need services that are available to them, just as our on-ground students do. It’s also clear that students who take online classes often take on-ground classes, as well. So, it’s not surprising that much of what we are developing in the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) can be used for all students, online or not. Remember the days before there was online registration?











The “WOW” slide

OEI Video: Online Tutoring Services

One such resource is the tutoring service that is available through the OEI. I’d like to shareour new video about using online tutoring resources with you.

The Link Systems WorldWideWhiteboard has been purchased for use by all California community colleges and the 24/7 vendor-based tutoring is available at low cost through the Foundation for California Community Colleges College Buys program. (All of our negotiated contracts are available at this link, except Canvas.)



Interactive Student-Readiness Tutorials

The Online Student Readiness Tutorials, a set of 11 interactive modules designed to help students prepare to learn online, has been requested by not only our colleges but others across the country. We have had requests for use of this resource from at least 11 other institutions across the United States from University of North Carolina to Oregon State University, and points in between! Comments like:

“Fantastic; are they really free; can we customize for our college; planning to use these with our entire online student population; thanks for developing this great resource; very excited about using your great interactive tutorials.”

These tutorials are available to everyone, inside and outside of the CCC, via Creative Commons licensing. They are located in the Student Success Resources area of the OEI website.

Common Course Management System

One of our biggest efforts has been to provide the community colleges with a common course management system (CCMS). After a lengthy selection process, we chose Canvas. To date we have 67 colleges who are in, or have completed, the implementation process for Canvas. It’s amazing!

This CCMS is for use by all instructors and students, whether online or face-to-face. Think of what we will be able to do together as we partner with a company (Instructure) who truly values us as a partner. Information about adopting Canvas is in the Technology Resourcesarea of our site. At our site, you will also find a TON of resources for learning how to use Canvas.

The months ahead will be filled with implementation work on so many fronts. The course/student exchange project is the hardest to accomplish. However, a brilliant team of developers, led by John Scanlon, John Sills and Lou Delzompo through the CCC Technology Center at Butte College, is doing a fine job of listening to us and turning our hopes into reality.

They are creating an adapter, of sorts, that will allow us to combine information from our multiple student information systems. The adapter is necessary for us to implement student registrations across our independent colleges. It’s no small task, but it’s getting done. This feature alone can give us valuable information that we can use for creating situations that help students find the classes they need to complete their goals while effectively informing enrollment decisions at local colleges.

Professional Development

Finally, we are working on major networking activities. The California Community CollegesProfessional Learning Network launched this week. Initial development funds came from the OEI and we are happy that we could be a part of that effort. A network of counselors is starting to form around the use of Cranium Café and an online course for counselors who will use that tool is almost ready to open for business with the help of @ONE.

The community of Canvas users from our college system is also working toward making the CCMS more useful to us. It’s about sharing effective practices and when we, the CCC community of educators, get together, we work smarter. Our students definitely will benefit from all of this work.

Pat James, Executive Director of the Online Education Initiative

Pat James, Executive Director of the Online Education Initiative

On A Personal Note

In years past, those of us involved in teaching online had to scrounge for just the right content and tools to be able to offer students a rich online learning experience. It was a pretty lonely job and, on rare occasions, we would get to meet and share what was working or get help from someone with a great idea.

That isolated struggle was something that came with the online teaching territory. Now, if you are an isolated online teacher, it’s by your own choosing, particularly in the California Community Colleges.

There exists, finally, a network of effective practices that is starting to develop, and is of great benefit to students and to California as a whole. For me, teaching online has always been fun, but it’s especially rewarding now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a TON of hard work, but we are no longer working alone and we don’t have to build everything ourselves.

I was, for a long time, the pioneer. Now, I am no longer the only person in my local community who knows all of the design strategies and technical tools to make the magic “happen”. I am no longer the sage to whom all who aspire to teach online flock for guidance. I am part of a bigger, stronger, smarter community of educators who understand what unprecedented access to education can mean to our society. It feels good to learn new stuff from new teachers, to enjoy the fruits of their creativity, and for me to try new things.

Let Go Of Status Quo

In a time like this, when the population of skilled online teachers is growing fast, it’s tempting for us early adopters to be fearful that we will lose some of our foothold on the niche that we worked so hard to build. (The story of the “Little Red Hen” comes to mind…) Search your motivation for staying entrenched in the status quo: Stretching the comfort level? Less work? Loss of control? Loss of “star” status?

To my colleagues who are steadfast in their certainty that their way is the best way, I say, “Let go.” There is much to be gained in a culture of freely shared innovation and new technologies. When we allow ourselves to grow and change, the big winners are the students. We all must follow our better selves to do what is best for students.

Lastly, take a bit of time to read the MIT report, “Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reform.” Before you do, though, read Phil Hill’s commentary about the MIT report, which provides an important context. You will also find a link to the report at Phil’s site.

Grow, Learn, Improve

I think that online education is not necessarily a catalyst for “reform”. I hate that word, reform. We don’t need reform, we need to grow.

One of my middle children once said, angrily, that I was a much better mother to her younger brother than I was to her. My response was that I get to grow, learn and improve all the time, just as she does. Online education is a way for us to combine our passions for teaching and learning with the opportunities that existing and emerging technologies provide for us to both share practices and access people who want to learn.

So, I will say what I have always said, it’s not the technology that changes lives. It is the teachers who know how to effectively build relationships and open the minds of the students they reach through the use of appropriate, and ever improving, learning technologies that changes, and sometimes even saves, the lives of students.

Pat James is Executive Director of the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative