Bolting The Wings On

CCC Online Education InitiativeAugust was a significant month for the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Iniatiative (OEI) staff. We hired the permanent replacements for the launch team officers. The new peeps start this week. We received the Request for Information (RFI) with initial vendor information for the Common Course Management System (CCMS) work and had the first meeting of the work group that is reviewing those and developing a Request for Proposal (RFP). We are working on the RFI for the tutoring vendor, which should be out within a couple of weeks. On the professional development course approval front, we have received more than 80 applications from folks across the state willing to serve as course reviewers, and that process is advancing rapidly.

However, one of the most interesting things that happened took place in a three-project staff meeting of the OEI, Common Assessment Initiative (CAI) and Education Planning Initiative (EPI).

Managers and steering committee members from all three groups attended a meeting on Aug. 14. The purpose of that meeting was to clarify the goals and progress on all three projects as a way of informing all about possible intersection and integration points that we may need to address and maximize.

Just A Bit About What We Learned

There are items in the CAI that are also of concern to the OEI project team. For example, online proctoring solutions that are developed for the OEI, which will be in pilot mode very soon, may inform those needed for the CAI and vice versa. The EPI has, as part of its work, use of degree audit solutions. The information gained from having an understanding of what courses students may need to complete their goals can inform the OEI about which courses to offer in the exchange.

The result of the meeting was a well-informed group of educators across the projects—and all have a clear understanding that we need to stay in close communication going forward.

Where’s the OEI?

If I were to characterize the condition of the OEI right now, I’d say, “Taking off!” The pilots will start this month with colleges connecting with the project managers and course review processes taking shape and in various phases of implementation. We are currently in the decision-making stage regarding how many courses will be active in all three pilot groups and how the courses will be enrolled for the Full Launch group. We are also actively working on processes for getting the pilots up and running within an aggressive timeline. Tutoring and Student Readiness pilots will go live in Spring 2015 with the CCMS/Full Launch group starting in Summer 2015.

Tutoring and Student Readiness groups will be selecting courses for review and approval, participating in reviewing solutions for those areas, and sharing ideas. Full Launch pilot colleges will be working out business processes and the implementation of the CCMS, as well as participating in course selection and review.

On Friday, our amazing Steering Committee will be looking at the completed work of their work groups and reorganizing their efforts for the shape of the new tasks ahead.

A CCMS, So What?

Almost two years back, I remember a discussion of the Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Committee (TTAC) about what was to become the OEI. We had a retreat in the East Bay Area and the talk centered around ideas to increase and improve our distance education offerings across the state. During that task force meeting, it became clear that a systemwide common course management system would be needed for the seamless deployment of resources for students, faculty and colleges. If we didn’t have to spread our resources and professional development across six-plus separate course management systems, we could really maximize our efforts to improve access and success. Right now, that CCMS is deep in the planning stages. It’s more than just a dream!

With the notion of a CCMS, there’s been a focus on an “exchange” idea that will allow students to take online classes seamlessly from any college in the system that chooses to use it. We have been in planning efforts toward exchanging students so they can get the courses they need to complete their degrees and/or transfer. But we are now also considering the word “exchange” from a broader perspective. In the last few days, we’ve been talking about making the work of the OEI exchange a REAL exchange.

What if the pilot college teachers got together in the next few months to exchange their expertise, strategies, ideas and excitement about online learning and teaching? What if we could have the faculty in the pilot colleges spend some time sharing now, in the beginning? We had a teaching network in the plan for a bit down the line, but it looks like we might be able to start that work now. We have been successfully offering online classes for over a decade within the CCC with not much support. Let’s take that expertise and maximize it as soon as we possibly can. Now that’s a vision I can get behind! Stay tuned.

Some Interesting TED Talks

The OEI management team met to transition our launch team members’ progress information to the new, permanent team. As part of the time we spent comparing notes from December to today, we considered innovative idea generation. We enjoyed inspiration from a series of TED Talks called “Where Do Ideas Come From?” The talks focused on how societies shared their good ideas. I highly recommend the series!

The Title Of This Post: Bolting The Wings On

Our friend and launch team member, Henry Burnett, mentioned that the meeting held between the three projects was like, “bolting the wings on to the project.” His reference was to some comments earlier in the year about building the plane while it is in the air. While I don’t subscribe exactly to that idea because we are building it before we launch it, I do like the reference to finally taking flight.

I think in the past two weeks, the OEI has really begun to soar. Ideas that have been hatching into processes are actually getting off the ground. Thanks so much to Henry, Anita Crawley, Ric Matthews, John Ittelson and Bobbi Kamil, Carol Lashman and Fred Sherman—the folks who will be stepping back now (for the most part), for all of your energy at the front end! Those of us continuing on are in your debt and know that flight just might be possible!

Speaking About Possible…

Phil Hill posted a great overview of what happened with CSU Online. If you are interested, you can find it here. There’s a lot to learn from other attempts to centralize online education across systems. I, for one, am paying attention.

Personally, the job doesn’t get any smaller, but it is getting better! I am still traveling A LOT. But mostly I spend my days in interesting conversations with interesting people about solving problems and considering ideas; all are steeped in innovation.

To name only a few of those people, John Makevich, Bonnie Peters and Jory Hadsell have given up the security of their home colleges to help make this huge dream a reality, and they are “all in” when it comes to passion and devotion to the work. Michelle Pilati and Barbara Illowsky have signed on in a big way to help with some areas they have particular expertise in (training online teachers and basic skills programs, respectively), and they are unstoppable. The support of Joe Moreau, Linda Thor and the Foothill-De Anza community is amazing. Add Steve Klein, Sandoval Chagoya, Jayme Johnson and others including our Chancellor’s Office folks to the mix and it’s quite a team!

Being Executive Director of a project of this magnitude can only be described in one word: crazy! That said, the potential and opportunities are ginormous (to use a professional term) and the good we can collectively do for our students is limitless.

Highlights And Next Steps

Here are a few highlights of the last two weeks, to name only a few:

  • Quality Course Design Standards are approved and posted at the OEI website.
  • Course Reviewers’ Applications are out.
  • RFI to RFP for the CCMS is in the works.
  • RFP for Tutoring is coming soon.
  • Readiness modules are going to be in prototype by the end of the month.
  • Colleges have been contacted and replied back.
  • Colleges will be contacted by OEI staff this week regarding further activities.
  • Creating the business processes for the exchange of students in the pilot will be the next hurdle!

Please post any questions or comments here. We appreciate your feedback and ideas.

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