Online Teaching Conference (OTC) | 2017 Dates and Location Announcement!

Mark your calendars for the next Online Teaching Conference (OTC), which will be held June 19-21, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif.

After reaching capacity attendance for the 2016 conference, the 2017 event is moving to the Hilton Anaheim to accommodate a larger audience — with the added benefit of being a short walk to Disneyland Park.

OTC’17 will also feature an expanded, three-day conference program, with pre-conference workshops and a general session on the first day, as well as plenty of networking opportunities throughout the event. Keep an eye for more information.

Conference Info

A call for proposals will open this month. Please get your papers ready.

Registration for the conference will open Sept. 30, with early pricing of $275 through April 15, 2017.

A hotel room block is being prepared. Booking information will be available Sept. 30.

Sponsorship Opportunities

If you would like the opportunity to meet with a variety of attendees, including faculty, deans, program/department chairs and administrators, including presidents from the 113 California Community Colleges (CCC), the University of California, California State University, and other higher education institutions, please consider becoming an OTC sponsor.

We can customize an OTC'17 sponsorship package for you! Please email for information.

OTC is presented by the CCC Online Education Initiative (OEI) and CCC Tech Connect (formerly TTIP South), which includes 3C Media Solutions, CCC Confer, Professional Learning Network and@ONE.

Information provided by the Online Teaching Conference

(Warning: The first part of this blog is my own thinking about what we are accomplishing. The second is updates on the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI). If you are here strictly for the updates, feel free to jump to the middle of the post. Otherwise, you might enjoy my praise of online teachers and what they bring to higher education. I’m just sayin’.)

The OEI team spent most of last week at InstructureCon 2016 in Keystone, Colo., learning about both what we can do with Canvas, our chosen common course management system, and what we will be able to do with it as it grows with us. The experience of being in a camp-like setting with two thousand (yep, 2,000+) online educators caused me to consider the value this teaching methodology brings to our world.

As distance educators, we have spent years justifying and explaining why the work we do is important. I recall one particular curriculum committee meeting in 2004 when I had to defend project-based evaluation as the main form of accountability in my online interactive media course. People asked why I didn’t have a mid-term, and why my final involved building something based on criteria, in place of a multiple-choice exam. After all, didn’t Blackboard have a great testing tool, and why didn’t I want to use it?

A year later I had to defend my choice to not use a textbook. Instead I wanted to use the wonderful, completely current resources that were available online for free. Like me, many of us fought for online instruction in committee meetings, in the halls of our buildings, in boardrooms and department meetings. We designed and ran course management system workshops, created step-by-step how-to instructional materials, developed annotated images, learned to create and caption videos of ourselves, and more.

So, being with more than 2,000 online educators for three days really caused me to think about what we have contributed to higher education. In June, we had 850 in attendance at the Online Teaching Conference (OTC). I was able to tell the audience in the general session in San Diego that they were changing the face of teaching and learning in higher education, both for online environments and for the traditional on-campus world. We, online educators, have been leading innovation and creating effective teaching strategies for years, and it’s paying off.


InstructureCon 2016 attendees

Ways Online Instruction Informs Traditional Classroom Instruction

In a blog post that is part of a Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning newsletter called Tomorrow’s Professor, a study was highlighted that looks at how online instruction informs traditional classroom instruction. The gist of the work of Michael L. Rodgers and Mary Harriet Talbut of Southeast Missouri State University is that when professors have to consider the shift in method from face-to-face (ftf) to online, they have to reconsider how they teach. For some people, it’s the first time they have thought about the process of designing how they teach.

Discipline knowledge is important, but knowing how to convey that information to others is critical. Generally, the content of what we teach is the same in an online class, but the methods of instruction and the methods of evaluation are what change. Those of us who have designed and taught online courses understand that change is essential if we are to grow as professionals.

(Remember the OTC keynote discussion of “teaching malpractice,” which is teaching the same way we did 20 years ago.) I’d like to point out only a few of the many ways that online teaching can inform changes in our on-ground teaching world.

1. Needing to change the method requires support and necessitates collaboration.

Despite the differences, experience with online teaching can provide the instructor with an alternative expression of the course that reveals much upon comparison. The relative dearth of experience with online teaching (including a lack of mentors) requires the instructor to construct a workable pedagogy, or face numerous negative consequences. Few instructors prefer a teaching environment in which students are confused and discontented, and where students rate instruction as poor. The more highly collaborative course development process for online courses puts the instructor in contact with experts and established good practices, along with either explicit or implicit accountability for the quality of teaching. People generally perform better when others are watching.

—Rodgers, M., & Talbut, M. (2013, December 1). Can Online Teaching Improve Face to Face Instruction?

The excerpt above really nails the point. No teacher I know wants to teach poorly. We have, however, relied for years on teaching the way we were taught. Becoming a college teacher doesn’t require us to explore learning theory. We don’t have to have “teaching credentials.” We just have to know our discipline content. Creating a ftf course is really more of an individual task than we may realize. Creating online learning environments requires collaboration with others even if only to have someone else help you learn the tools! Designing differently requires reflection and organization. The thing I hear the most from new online teachers who have been taught to teach online is how the process has made them a better teacher, period.

I used to think that online teaching was a pretty isolating experience. Actually, it’s become the opposite. Over the years, our CCC online community has supported each other as we learned what practices worked and what did not. We have developed many ideas for successfully organizing course content and communicating with students. Doing that work as a teacher in isolation wasn’t too productive and, as we began using the resources the web allowed, we saw potential for new ways of presenting information, integrated activities that could be developed, and ways to allow students to perform authentically (see... “blogs”—authentic writing made possible). Out of necessity, we shared those ideas.

2. Changing the method causes a critical use of outcome-based design.

Around 2004, we were subjected to the dreaded “SLO” (Student Learning Outcome) by our accrediting agency. We suddenly had to figure out which SLOs were addressed the same way across courses and measure them. The application of SLOs after the course was being offered was seen as burdensome and caused (still causes) resistance.



Learning outcomes have to be the center of the online course design process and make total sense to new online teachers who are seeking to translate a course to online instructional methodology. Online design requires a teacher to look at what they want a student to know and be able to do, figure out how, in the new method, they are going to accomplish that, and then figure out how to evaluate the learning using available online tools. The first thing new online teachers ask is, “How are my students going to do the assignments?” In online course design it’s about “doing.”

An example from my interactive media design class would be about an assignment to build an effective commercial website. I’d want students to know about the business they are creating (for their client) and to determine what the intended audiences are for the site. I know what I want them to learn, but what do I want them to do?

I have to consider that all the work will be done in an online environment and how do I use what’s available there. I could have them do online research about the client’s type of business and then report out in a blog post that other students can then add information to in the form of comments. I could have students interview the business’ clients using a Google form and then use the results to create a set of design standards to submit to me as an Acrobat or Word file. I would have to assess each activity with a rubric that aligns to grading for the assignments.

It doesn’t take much to see how SLOs become useful when they are done in the initial design process. Creating outcomes at the beginning of designing an online course is critical for the course to be effective and gives teachers the opportunity to reconsider their teaching strategies in general. This process can be used in designing ftf courses, too, and is the foundation of a strategy called “Backward Design” if you are interested in learning more. The way an online course is designed requires the development of clear outcomes from the start, not applied after the fact to fulfill an accreditation standard.

3. Innovation using technology is essential in online teaching!

The transfer of technology used in online courses in enhancing ftf courses is really clear! More and more ftf teachers are using course management systems (CMS) to keep students, and themselves, organized. Being able to post changes in due dates, issues with course resources, and other announcements can assist a ftf teacher with communicating with students in so many ways. We now wonder how we did without these tools even 10 years ago!

Some of the biggest changes happen when ftf teachers really begin to use technology. Some examples are when ftf teachers integrate video production tools for students to use, such as Explain Everything, or have students write authentically in a blog, or use a CMS to provide rubrics connected to grades, or create resource collections that are available through the CMS. The use of these online teaching tools really has caused a shift in the ftf environment and it’s likely only the beginning.

Student Success & Retention Continue To Rise In Online Courses

One of the goals of the OEI is to provide resources to improve the overall quality of online courses. I’ve been working hard to not compare online to ftf, but rather compare resourced online to non-resourced online so that we can actually see what we need to work on.


I truly feel that the comparison of resourced online to non-resourced online is incredibly important and we are currently collecting that data for the courses we are working with. So, because of wanting to shift the conversation away from comparison to ftf, I hesitate to mention the next item but it’s an interesting comment on improvement in the ftf environment.

When Michelle Pilati and I were preparing for a presentation recently, she did some quick research at the Chancellor’s Office Data Mart. What she found was pretty interesting. (The chart shown here is just retention information.)

Which method is continuing to improve and which is flat? I’m no statistician, and know that some of you will jump all over me for this, but what if we find going forward that the improvements are related to innovation and resource provision at a high level for online education? What if the improvement is because we are paying closer attention to how we teach? If that is the case, then what we are doing as online teachers can really help improve on-ground teaching, too.

So, just think about where the change in methodology for all of us is coming from. Innovation is the name of our game as online educators. Don’t doubt that we have a lot to offer!

Beyond the advance of innovation the value of online education is, of course, the access we provide to students who cannot complete their educational goals without that access. I’ve spoken about this before and am preparing some reports from students to share next month. The most important reason why our work matters is because it makes education available to students. Transformation in how we teach is very much an intended consequence!

OEI Updates

Canvas adoption: We have over 90 colleges adopting Canvas! It’s amazing what, as a system, we can do! The CCC Canvas Community is growing and the developers at Canvas are paying attention to the “asks” we make there. I certainly don’t regret selecting Instructure as our partner. They continue to live up to their promises. We are revising the list of Canvas colleges on the OEI website to reflect which colleges have adopted and that information should be posted soon.

Portfolios: Online Portfolios are a hot topic these days and we will have an article about them in the next issue of CCC Technology for Student Success News. Watch for that in two weeks.

Additional funding: In case you are wondering, we did receive the approval of an augmentation of $20 million from the legislature. It’s one-time money, but we can do a lot with it to increase the inventory of online courses available to students across our colleges. We are also in the midst of preparing a proposal for an ongoing budget augmentation to allow for us to continue providing Canvas at no cost to the colleges. There will be more about these budget items in later posts, you can be sure.

Academic integrity: We have almost finalized a contract with VeriCite as a new option for plagiarism detection, which should be available through the Foundation for the California Community Colleges very soon! In addition, the on-ground proctoring network is finally being developed across the colleges and many of you will be hearing from us before the end of this year about how to participate.

OEI website and Canvas support: Our website is undergoing some renovation even though it’s only seven months old! Please be sure to look at the resources for learning to use Canvas that are located there. There are just-in-time videos for learning to use Canvas by function as well as step-by-step instructions that @ONE has made for us. While these links are direct to Canvas and @ONE, they are only two of a variety of resources available at our site, Please visit and explore all of the resources provided through the initiative.


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

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

blog-outandabout-te032416Required Course Review Myth Clarification: Before I start the main part of my post for this month, I want to clarify a misconception that has come to my attention. Any California community college can choose to adopt Canvas as their new course management system. Courses do not have to go through course review in order to migrate to Canvas. The use of the review process is purely a local college decision.

We hope that your college will consider reviewing courses and aligning them to the OEI Course Design Rubric, but there is no requirement to do so from the Online Education Initiative. If a college is putting courses in the OEI Course Exchange, however, then we do review those courses.

Colleges are also not required to participate in the Course Exchange if they adopt Canvas—again, it’s a local college decision. For more information about the exchange, see my earlier blog posts.

The Online Education Initiative Core Team

Have you seen us? We’ve been visiting colleges all over the state. I’ll bet you have met us! We are educators just like you and we truly care about the current and future students of California.

In years past, I was a CIS/Multimedia faculty member, Dean of Distance Education (DE) and co-Director of @ONE from the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District (CCD) and (long ago) Yuba College. Jory Hadsell, our Chief Academic Affairs Officer, is a former community college teacher and DE program director from the Los Rios CCD. Bonnie Peters, Chief Student Services Officer, hails from San Diego CCD where, as a counselor, she designed and directed an online counseling program. Michelle Pilati, Interim Chief Professional Development Officer, has been online-teaching faculty for many years, tenured at Rio Hondo and part-time at Mt. San Jacinto, Compton and Foothill colleges. Barbara Illowsky, Dean of Basic Skills & Open Educational Resources, is tenured faculty at De Anza College, and is one of the best online mathematics teachers around. Jayme Johnson, Director of Accessibility and User Experience, has been facilitating online accessibility for as long as I can remember. Joe Moreau, the OEI’s co-Executive Sponsor, has been art-faculty-turned-educational-technology-wizard, and has also been at three districts in the California Community Colleges (CCC) over his many years of service to students.

Many of us have been academic senate presidents and curriculum committee chairs, technology committee leaders, technicians and, most importantly, passionate educators in the CCC. This is our core team. We have taught psychology, art, multimedia production, business, mathematics, computer science and more over the years—all online. We are you.

Talk With Us

When you see us visiting at a college or at a conference, please introduce yourselves and let us know what resources we need to help you with your online teaching work. Our goal is to support the CCC in assisting students in their efforts to complete their educational goals. We are leading a huge student success initiative that is focused on making online learning effective and available across California. Talk with us!

I wanted to mention just a few of the upcoming activities of the initiative, and also let you know how things are generally going. I’ll start with some info about where you can find us in the next few months.

DE Coordinators & Staff Developers4csd-box

April 7-8, the OEI and the CCC Council for Staff and Organizational Development (4C/SD) will co-host a conference dedicated to faculty and staff who are responsible for providing professional development at their institutions. The conference will be held at the Doubletree Hotel in Claremont, Calif.

The OEI is participating in this year’s 4CSD annual conference, in part, to encourage DE coordinators in the CCC to join in. It often falls to the DE coordinators to develop and implement professional development activities for online educators and the sessions at this year’s conferences can provide ideas, strategies and content for that work. Our partners from @ONE will have a strong presence at the conference. I hope to see many of you there!

Registration is limited and can be accomplished at this link.

Time To Mega-Collaborate!

Later in April, from the 20th to the 22nd, we will be at the Aligning Partnerships for Student Success Conference hosted by the partnership of the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges (ASCCC), the CCC Chief Instructional Officers (CCCCIO), the California Community College Association of Occupational Educators (CCCAOE) and the Chief Student Services Officers (CCCCSSAA).

As I have written here many times, the Online Education Initiative is about California’s community colleges putting their energy and knowledge together to benefit the students of our state. This conference is dedicated to that end. The recent developments of a variety of initiatives in the state have resulted in a natural synergy across our institutions, made possible by our ability to better communicate and to stay connected to develop educational strategies that benefit students. So it seems natural that the leadership groups in the state would come together for this event.

I am so looking forward to the time for us to be together in one place where we can share our effective practices with each other. It’s been said that a rising tide lifts all boats, and it seems that we are at that point in our history. Be there! You can register at any of the host-groups’ websites. I’ll let you choose your affinity.



otc2016logo2016 Online Teaching Conference

I can’t mention conferences without promoting my favorite of all time, the Online Teaching Conference (OTC). This year it will again be at the San Diego Convention Center June 15-17. This is one of the only conferences I am aware of that is devoted to online teaching and learning. It is hosted by the CCC Chancellor’s Office technology projects and is definitely amazing! To register, please visit

Meet Canvas At InstructureCon

Last but not least is InstructureCon 2016, July 19-21. We are grateful to Instructure for its support of our colleges through the rapid adoption processes our colleges have been participating in. (More info about that a little later in this post.) InstructureCon is the Canvas event hosted by Instructure every year. We are really happy that the OTC and InstructureCon are not happening at the same time, like they were last year! We will be there and hope those of you who are now using Canvas will be too! The Canvas folks will also be with us at the OTC. See the InstructureCon site for more information.

Coming To Visit You!

We are also visiting colleges often. We will be at Fullerton College on March 29, and at Santa Rosa Junior College on May 14. We have been to more than 50 colleges in the past year and will continue to set those visits as you request them! Additionally, we will be participating in the ASCCC regional online education meetings, April 8-9. For more OEI event news, please visit our site

What’s Going On Within OEI?

There have been some recent additions to our staff. Because we are now deep into implementation of the resources for online learning, we needed to add project management support. Logan Murray and Jessica Hurtado have been hired to do a variety of activities having to do with resource implementation that range from providing the consortium with general support to working on the OEI website and social media presence! (Check out the CCC Online Education Initiative on Facebook!)

Additionally, we have a new associate in our Foothill-De Anza office, Martha Rubin. We are pretty confident that Martha will be the glue that keeps the OEI remote team together and will be available to answer your queries, too! You can contact her at We are very happy to welcome these three to the initiative!

Canvas Adoption

“Wow!” doesn’t quite capture the expression that represents the rapid adoption of Canvas as the systemwide resourced CMS. As of this writing, 64 colleges have completed the paperwork required to adopt Canvas and are in various stages of implementation. Another dozen or so colleges are in the process of confirming their campus decisions or are in the consideration phase. We will be posting a list on our site in the next week or so.

This is an amazing show of solidarity across our colleges as a group working to offer effective online learning opportunities to our students. The rapid adoption has been handled really well by Canvas implementation staff. I have also noticed that, as we had hoped, the colleges that are adopting have been able to follow their own timelines, based on their ability to shift their CMS.

I was at a college last week to present an OEI overview in conjunction with a Canvas demo presentation. I have to say that I was impressed by the demonstration that our Canvas partners gave, including the clear, considerate and knowledgeable answers they provided to the faculty and staff participating in the event. If your college is considering adoption, requesting a Canvas demo is a must. We also have information about the process of CMS change consideration at our website. To find it, click Canvas CCMS under the Technology Resources menu.

Canvas Migration & Faculty Support Resources Available

I want to mention that we have new resource additions to our website. There is a section for faculty and staff resources focused on learning Canvas and migrating to the Canvas CMS. You can also find out how to access the cross-system community!

There are several migration guides that will help both staff and faculty understand how to bring courses from a currently used CMS to Canvas as well as concise information about how to use specific tools within Canvas. Check out these new resources. For specific use of Canvas tools, visit the Migration Support Page, where you will find step-by-step instructions for how to start using a variety of Canvas functions, as well as the Migration Support Guides.

Well, I am off now to register for conferences! See you there.


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


California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative

The California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) just keeps moving along! We are deep into implementing the tasks that were identified in the original request for application from the CCC Chancellor’s Office, and are being innovative, introspective and attentive to future expectations while considering the items that still need our attention.

In a recent article posted by the American Association of Community Colleges, it was noted that the CCC has had major increases in the numbers of students who are transferring to four-year colleges after completing associate degrees with us. According to the AACC, we have increased in the last three years from just over 700 to approximately 20,000 students transferring with associate degrees. That’s a phenomenal number of students!

This growth can be directly attributed to the ability of our colleges to quickly implement positive change. We are seeing that in our OEI work, as well. We also recognize that by making more effective online learning opportunities available to students we are able to play a role in the growth of completion of those Associate Degrees for Transfer (ADTs). In light of this news, our completion agenda becomes more significant.

If you add in the thought that college may be less expensive—or even free—in the near future, the ability of our colleges to add courses quickly is very important. Buildings take a lot of time and money to erect. That type of expansion may not be able to keep the pace with the need to increase educational opportunities for our citizens. Online programs can increase more quickly if there are adequate resources to do so. The resources we are building and implementing do allow colleges to ramp up online program offerings much more quickly without additional classroom space.

There are many other considerations for preparing for the infusion of students that “free college” will bring us, however, as our own Joe Moreau addresses in his recent article, What If All Of Our Wildest Dreams Come True? For those of us in the innovation arena, this is a must read.

Taking Stock…
We have created resources that addressed the obvious online student and faculty support needed in the development of effective opportunities for online learners, and we now are expanding our efforts to program needs. The first of those is the selection of academic integrity tools such as online proctoring and creation of a proctoring network.

Jory Hadsell, the OEI’s Chief Academic Officer, has led a work group consisting of members of our OEI steering committee and others across the system, in selecting Proctorio as our online proctoring tool, and is now working to connect our on-ground proctoring centers at local colleges in a network that will support online learners who need to be at a physical location to take a test for an online course. It is the goal that students will be able to go to any local community college and take a test from any online course across the state.

Additionally, Bonnie Peters, the OEI’s Chief Student Services Officer, is creating a counseling network that will allow counselors to share effective practices for advising online learners at their home colleges and across the state. The network plans include provision of a technology platform (the OEI has arranged for Cranium Café to provide that platform) and the provision of training and assistance for counselors. For more information, please see the recent article announcing the Online Counseling Network.

On the professional development side of the OEI, Michelle Pilati, our Chief Professional Development Officer, is leading the effort with the assistance of @ONE to create networking opportunities for faculty who want to share effective online teaching practices in their disciplines across colleges. They are also involved in providing online education opportunities for faculty in staff across the state based on a significant Train-the-Trainers model. The Professional Development component of the initiative is also very engaged in reviewing courses for entrance in the course exchange program that will launch in Fall 2017.

The Professional Learning Network (PLN, formerly considered the “clearinghouse”) is almost ready for prime time and will be a vehicle for that faculty networking to happen. The staff of the Student Success Center and of TTIP South will launch the PLN very soon!

Below is a list of some of the things we have done and are continuing to work on.

OEI Resource Developed




Effective course design rubric and teaching standards (Creative Commons Licensed).Yes  
Online Learner Readiness modules (Creative Commons Licensed).Yes Revision in progress.
Tutoring platform connecting local tutors to students online.Yes  
24/7 vendor-based tutoring (NetTutor via negotiated pricing).Yes  
Resources for underprepared students.Yes Learning modules focusing these resources are in development.
Online proctoring (Proctorio via negotiated pricing).Yes  
On-ground proctoring network.Yes In progress.
Counseling platform to connect online learners to counselors (Cranium Café via negotiated pricing).Yes  
Online Counseling Network (OCN) and training (Free to all CCCs).  In progress.
Canvas common course management system (CCMS). No cost to CCCs through at least 2018-19, if not longer.Yes  
Canvas training; four-week facilitated course. (No cost to colleges adopting Canvas and Creative Commons Licensed for colleges wanting to teach it themselves.)Yes  
Canvas Train-theTrainers one-day workshop (No cost).Yes  
Aligning the course-design standards workshop (No cost).Yes  
Peer Online Course Reviewer training; two-week course (No cost).Yes  
Online Education Standards and Practices; 12-week course for new online teachers (Creative Commons Licensed).Yes  
Accessibility in online course-design support.Yes Further development underway.
Professional Development Network (PLN) led by the Student Success Center in collaboration with the CCC Chancellor's OfficeIEPI Project.  In progress.
Model Course Design (Creative Commons Licensed to provide insight into how to create effective online courses across a variety of disciplines; models will be available in the PLN).  In progress.
Listing of all available online courses within the CCCs, and information about Associate Degrees for Transfer.Yes Further refinement underway.
CCC Online Course (Student) Exchange mechanism (Scheduled to launch Fall 2017).  In progress.
Online resources for receiving credit for prior learning.  In progress.

Things We Are Working On…
The implementation of Canvas across the system is marching on! We have well over 50 colleges in some stage of Canvas adoption with more identifying themselves every day.

The build-out of the course (student) exchange mechanism is also ongoing with a minimum viable product release scheduled for August 2017 for courses that will be offered that fall. There are also ongoing creative efforts underway by the OEI Consortium to design the next layer of complexity for the exchange mechanism.

We know that some items, like complete financial aid opportunities for students, will not be in the mechanism that launches at first, but we are working on that and other complexities of registration and serving students globally for the next layer of the technology involved. (Meanwhile, manual processes for financial aid distribution are being developed for Fall 2017 that will inform the creation of the automated processes in subsequent iterations of the exchange mechanism.)

It’s becoming clearer that the exchange mechanism will have applications beyond just increasing access to bottleneck courses needed for completion by students, like allowing access to capstone courses that aren’t readily available at one college but may be more available if colleges pool their students. Conversation is also underway that includes creating degree patterns across the OEI Consortium as well as expansion beyond the pilot transfer degree focus to the needs of Career Technical Education, as well.

The creation of the exchange is a huge undertaking that has not only the staff of the CCC Technology Center at Butte College working incredibly hard, but the participants at the eight pilot colleges deeply involved, too! Implementation teams are forming that include key people in a variety of departments at each college who are integral to making it all work! I’d like to commend both the technology teams and the pilot college participants for their incredible dedication to this component of the project.

We continue to collect data about the effectiveness of the resources we are providing that we are using to refine those resources. For example, the Online Learner Readiness modules are being brought to accessibility standards that are beyond simply compliance level in order to be an example of cutting-edge accessibility design.

The original RFA had a goal that involves the investigation of credit for prior learning opportunities that may be facilitated in an online environment and we are currently exploring that topic. We have a long way to go with this idea and will be engaging the entire CCC community, specifically the Academic Senate, in the conversation about how students can receive credit for what they already bring to a degree pursuit.

The OEI base funding is intended to be ongoing past the five years of the initial grant award. I believe that the California Legislature, Governor Brown, and the administrators in the CCC Chancellor’s Office will be pleased with our work and understand the need to continue the efforts of the OEI as a critical component of successful student education in California.

The initial iteration of the OEI Consortium includes representation from all 24 pilot colleges and they are hard at work creating initial agreements and expanding ideas for how we can implement online opportunities for students. Their work, combined with that of the OEI Steering Committee and the initiative team, will improve the future of online education in the California Community Colleges for decades to come.

This work is not easy and it is all-consuming at times. I want to thank my team, the Tech Center team, and all of those who are participating with work and creative energy for being willing to innovate big! The students and economy of California will benefit from our work.

California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeWelcome 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.
    • Tutoring:
      • 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
    • 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 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!

CCC Online Education InitiativeEffective Use Guidelines

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:

Initiative (noun):

    1. The power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task; enterprise and determination.
    2. 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.

CCC Online Education InitiativeAnother 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.


James_PatIt’s hard to believe we are already at the end of 2015. This year for the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) has been a busy one! In this blog post, I’d like to reflect on all we’ve accomplished and the results.

Some of the highlights of what the OEI has been working on:

  • Over 11,000 students have been recipients of the student success resources we have developed through pilot courses. There are likely many more who have used the online learner readiness, tutoring resources, and under-prepared student resources and have benefitted from taking courses that have been influenced by the course design standards we developed.
  • The OEI management team has presented at just about every conference and convening of educators both across the state and across the country and, just as in our online courses, relationship building has been critical to the success of the initiative’s goals.
  • Members of the OEI and @ONE teams have visited over 40 colleges this year to discuss the initiative and/or provide training on applying the Course Design Rubric and/or Canvas use.
  • Two new @ONE online courses have been developed and began to be offered in October. Canvas Train-the-Trainer workshops and Peer Online Course Reviewer trainings have been happening all over the state. Initial course reviews have been accomplished for over 70 pilot courses and are continuing through the re-review process.
  • At this writing, over 30 colleges have committed to or are adopting the Canvas common course management system (CCMS). (The list grows by the day!) It seems that just yesterday we completed the CCMS section process. The selection was made in February. The negotiations ended in the summer and adoption began in July.
  • We have held two pilot college consortium meetings with the pilot colleges represented, and will have completed an initial Course Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by January of 2016. Those meetings have been highly charged with positive energy, and very productive. The Consortium now has a charter (with some help by our Steering Committee) and it has leaders! Wendy Bass from Los Angeles Pierce College and Will Breitbach from Shasta College have been elected as co-chairs for the group.
  • A new OEI informational website has been developed and is now live at!

Our Guiding Principles

The OEI guiding philosophy has a foundation of doing what is best for students and as we reflect on the work over the past year, it is good to keep these guiding principles in mind as we go into the New Year:

  • Always consider what is best for students.
  • Engage in “agile” project management.
  • Innovation is “messy”.
  • Consider the big picture.
  • Involve everyone in the process.

Personally, it is a privilege to be able to connect with so many of our CCC educators and in every case we find engaged, dedicated folks who understand what their work means to the students of our state. We are strongly fostering the idea that a student of any California community college is a student belonging to all of us. When we help educate our population we help the state of California be a better place to live.

As I write this post, I am reminded of what one of our students who served on the CCMS selection committee said to us in the selection meetings in February. When asked for her “take away” from the experience, she said “I always knew that my college teachers cared about me, but I never knew how much you all care about all of us [students] until now.” That caring for students is why I continue to work in this system.

California Communty Colleges Online Education InitiativeCourse Exchange Target: Fall 2016

While there are many other important components of the initiative, the course exchange is on everyone’s mind these days. It certainly is one of the most complex tasks we are involved in!

It seems as though calling the idea of students taking classes at multiple colleges is not so much that of a course exchange as it is a student exchange. For the pilot of the exchange, all eight pilot colleges will have their students able to enroll across colleges and they will be offering courses for other school’s students, as well. All are participating as both “home” and “teaching” colleges. The exchange is still on target to launch the pilot in Fall 2016.

What is becoming clearer is that the purpose of the exchange will be to not only allow students to get the courses they need to complete in a timely way, but it will also allow for the colleges to develop a variety of collaborative programs across the Consortium.

The Exchange Mechanism

The technology required for the development of the exchange is moving rapidly forward. The developers at the CCC Technology Center are listening to our requirements and are doing a fantastic job of interpreting them within the development work. I am now very confident that a technical solution to solve the student “swirling” problem is possible!

The MOU that consists of the agreements among the eight exchange pilot colleges will be completed in January and form the foundation for the pilot of the exchange. Those agreements will be reviewed and revised throughout this year and beyond by the Consortium in collaboration with the Steering Committee, the OEI management team, and the CCC Chancellor’s Office staff. The results of the exchange trial in Fall 2016 will be critical for determining future policies and practices for the 24 pilot colleges and the system as a whole. The MOU is expected to evolve as we move past the pilot phases of the initiative.

Canvas Adoption Continues

The adoption of the Canvas CCMS by colleges in the system continues! There has been a surge in the last few months with colleges identifying timelines for adoption that fits their needs relative to the situations with current systems. We are continuing to visit colleges to discuss the possibilities for adopting, and are seeing new decisions to adopt happening every week.

If your college is considering the Canvas option, you will want to visit our Canvas site for further information. There, you’ll find a complete guide for how to have the conversation about CMS choice and how to implement should you choose to adopt Canvas.

The benefits to deciding to opt in to Canvas as the statewide CCMS system are many. Some of the immediate ones are:

  • Your college will be part of a community of educators designing the future of the CCMS as it goes forward.
  • Canvas is a CMS that is easy to use for students and faculty.
  • The CCMS will be integrated among the services available across the systemwide initiatives including resources being piloted now (Online Tutoring and Student Readiness Modules, etc.) in the OEI.
  • Professional development opportunities for using Canvas will be provided through the initiative at no cost to your college.
  • Course migration support will be provided.
  • If your college is hosting your current CMS, your college will no longer have costs associated with a self-hosting infrastructure.
  • Upgrades will be completed on a systemwide basis.
  • Additional resources will be integrated over time.
  • Significant cost reduction of the cost of the CMS as it will be subsidized by initiative funds.
  • The RFP/procurement process has been thoroughly conducted thus saving your college time in the adoption process.

Professional Development

Right now the focus of professional development is in two areas: aligning courses with the OEI Course Design Rubric and learning to use Canvas. The 12-week Online Education Standards and Practices course is scheduled to begin in Spring. Watch for further announcements from @ONE about that.

Working with the OEI team, @ONE has ramped up offering the four-week Canvas training course with up to six sessions planned for spring semester. They are working on the train-the-trainer module, as well, and are moving about the state teaching people to teach the @ONE Canvas course at their home colleges. Please see the announcement below for registration information:

California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative

Academic Integrity Resources

The Academic Integrity Work Group of the OEI Steering Committee has been working over the past several months to identify resources to enhance academic integrity in online courses. The focus has been to identify and secure tools that can seamlessly integrate into Canvas and provide two key ingredients for course integrity: online proctoring solutions that include student identity verification and tools for identifying and preventing instances of student plagiarism.

The work group and project leadership have been working with CollegeBuys, part of the Foundation for California Community Colleges, to facilitate the request for proposals and to secure agreements that provide the most aggressive pricing for the OEI and that can be extended to any California community college. Simply put: By identifying the best products and pooling our volume as a system, we create new possibilities for every college, student, and faculty member in our system.

Proctoring & Student Exam Authentication

The work group evaluated multiple proposals for online test proctoring and authentication and selected Proctorio as the best technology fit for our system. Pilot colleges will have access to Proctorio at no cost within their Canvas instances.

Proctorio provides faculty and students with a non-intimidating, simple workflow for capturing student identity and monitoring behavior during online tests. Faculty can easily adjust levels of required test security, with a wide variety of tools and options that include an ID check; lockdown browser; facial recognition technology; visual, auditory and computer-based behavior monitoring and capture; machine algorithms that analyze behaviors and metadata to flag unusual behavior by an individual student and across students taking a single exam; and an intuitive interface for reviewing flagged behaviors, including a downloadable incident log, among other features.

Another noteworthy feature is the ability to generate metadata across students and exams to flag suspected instances of fraud. With increasing scrutiny and prevalence of financial aid fraud in online courses, this is an important consideration. The contract is in the process of being finalized and executed this week. More information will be forthcoming shortly in a separate announcement.

The Academic Integrity Work Group also expressed a strong interest in providing a proctoring option to address situations in which face-to-face proctoring is needed. Therefore, as part of the OEI Steering Committee recommendation to move forward with Proctorio for online proctoring, the management team will also be working to put in place a network of participating colleges to form a face-to-face proctoring network. This geographically diverse network would allow any online CCC student to access a human proctor within a reasonable distance at no cost to the student. OEI staff will be soliciting interest and forming the agreements during the coming Spring 2016 semester.

Preventing Plagiarism

The Academic Integrity Work Group has outlined specifications for plagiarism prevention and detection software. The RFP process led by the Foundation did not lead to a vendor contract. However, the community college system has an existing pricing agreement with that allows for discounted tiers as colleges pool their collective FTES volume. The features of Turnitin are largely in line with the functionality requested by the work group. Many colleges already use this agreement to license Turnitin with their existing CMS, including several pilot colleges.

The OEI management team is in the process of implementing a short-term agreement to license Turnitin for those pilot colleges that do not currently have a Turnitin license. The short-term agreement will provide licensing for Turnitin services between January and June for all courses migrated to the Canvas CCMS. We have received assurances from Turnitin that pilot colleges with existing contracts may undergo a second integration into Canvas with no additional licensing costs or fees.

To address longer term needs, the OEI is partnering with other systems and stakeholders to seek a longer term licensing agreement that reduces the cost of Turnitin. The existing CCC pricing expires this coming year, and we want to help secure an agreement with more aggressive pricing to benefit any California community college.

Online Counseling Network

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, which is intended to serve online learners. On behalf of the OEI, the Foundation made the announcement of its intent to award the contract to Cranium Café, Salt Lake City, Utah.

With counselors trained in how to counsel online and on the use of the Cranium Café platform, the OEI’s Online Counselors’ Network will offer a new and efficient way to provide virtual counseling support services to online CCC students.

Initially counselors from participating OEI pilot colleges will be invited to participate in the network and will be offered the opportunity to utilize the Cranium Café platform to facilitate individual and group synchronous counseling sessions, online workshops, drop-in/walk-in sessions as well as online group presentations. Subsequently this service will be made available to any of the 113 community colleges interested in having trained online counselors and in using the platform to deliver online counseling for all online students.

The launch of the Online Counselors’ Network and the use of Cranium Café services is intended for mid-Spring 2016.

OEI Online Counselors’ Network Components

Educational Technology Platform:

  • Partnership with Cranium Café online meeting and collaboration platform

Network Structure and Approach:

  • Partner with participating OEI pilot colleges to establish a uniform approach to online counseling
  • Create a community of online counselors trained in working with online students utilizing the same platform

Professional Development and Standards:

  • Develop, deliver and standardize professional development training and materials aligned to the National Board of Certified Counselors standards for distance counseling professionals

Have a great holiday break!


P.S. Thanks go to Bonnie Peters and Jory Hadsell for contributions made to this post.

California Community Colleges Online Eduation InitiativeWe 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.

California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeCanvas CCMS ≠ Course Exchange

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:

    1. 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).


    1. 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.)


  1. 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.

Vision, Analysis, Solution, Process, SuccessIt 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!

Online Teaching ConferenceUpcoming Events

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

California Community Colleges @ONE ProjectI 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


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 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.

California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeWhen 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”.

Upgrade ThinkingWe 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!


Pat James, Executive Director of the California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeSo it’s a hot and muggy summer in California. Much of the community colleges community is taking a well-deserved break from the pace of providing education to more than 2 million students. Those of us working within the Online Education Initiative (OEI) are trying to carve out a couple of days here and there to rest. However, it’s really hard to find that time!

Somehow, we have found ourselves in mid-July with the beginning of the fall term staring us squarely in the face. Where did June go?

With all of that said, we are working as hard as we possibly can to both accomplish short-term goals and also develop additional long-term planning. We held a very successful Online Teaching Conference in San Diego for more than 700 attendees right before the storms came, and are already thinking about OTC16! Some of the systems we have been building are now starting to become clearer and the pathways are developing well. I feel as though we can finally come up for air and breathe a little! However, “rest” is something we are not doing.

Transition To CCMS Begins

The area of Professional Development is one of those areas where summer is the peak development time. Michelle Pilati, Anna Stirling, Micah Orloff, Lene Whitley-Putz and the crew of the @ONE project, are getting their arms around the massive efforts to assist faculty in reviewing and revising their online classes, as the pilot classes begin to transition into the Canvas common course management system (CCMS) for Fall 2015.

Over the past two months, instructional designers have been consulting with faculty who are working on aligning their courses to the OEI Course Design Rubric. In the weeks ahead, regular meetings will be held to assist those who are preparing to teach in Canvas in the fall.

Small but mighty, the @ONE team of instructional designers, clerical staff and project managers are an amazingly dedicated bunch. Imagine trying to hire instructional designers on the fly within an institutional process? It’s not easy, but they are getting it done. In the next two weeks, instructional designers will be working one-on-one with faculty who are preparing for the full launch of the Course Exchange component of the OEI.

Readiness Modules Revised

On the student support front, the team working on the online student readiness solutions has used the feedback from last spring to completely revise the “Quest for Success” readiness modules. The revised modules will be available to deploy within Canvas to our pilot colleges, and also from the web for all colleges in our system. They are just now going through final accessibility review and are expected to be available by the first week in August.

Bonnie Peters, Anita Crawley, Jayme Johnson and the folks at Agile Research & Technology Inc. have been working hard to accomplish the major revisions needed. These modules, in final release, will be Creative Commons licensed. Information about how to access the modules for use in your courses will be posted here soon!

Tutoring For All Online Students

California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeAll 24 pilot colleges will be able to incorporate the student readiness and tutoring solutions in their online classes in the fall. The tutoring solutions, however, will not be of much help to student success if students don’t use them. We know from experience that the students who avail themselves of tutoring support are generally the good students in the first place. So, we are focusing on how to encourage the use of tutoring resources for those students who need it the most.

The effort is two pronged. The first is to create a deployment space that is within colleges’ courses in an engaging way. The second is to come up with effective ways to achieve that engagement. To that end, Barbara Illowsky and Anita Crawley are going to colleges and working directly with faculty to develop effective practices for involving all online students in the use of tutoring services. We are trying to leave no stone unturned!

Canvas Rollout Continues

The rollout of Canvas continues to unfold as we get information from colleges wanting to participate, and as we develop implementation schedules with our Canvas partners. I can’t say enough about the people at Instructure with whom we are working. They have recognized the enormity of what we are trying to accomplish and are excited about the opportunities to grow with us in the months and years ahead. I believe that we have chosen wisely.

Other components of the initiative that continue to be developed are online proctoring solutions and a proctoring network, online counseling capabilities, resources for underprepared students, planning next year’s Online Teaching Conference and more. The OEI Steering Committee is considering the development of an effective practices guide for using publisher materials in online course and they are also updating their charter. Members of the committee continue to participate in work groups covering all of our OEI components.

Exchange Timeline Pushed Out

We are also still working on the Course Exchange component of the initiative. Many pieces of the mechanism to allow for the exchange to happen must align, including the full implementation of Open CCCApply (the systemwide college application process), business process finalization among the colleges involved in the pilot, integration with and testing of the processes within multiple enrollment systems, and more.

So it’s likely that it will take a bit longer to get all of the processes involved with registration automated by next spring, as we had hoped. Our first priority is to make the process work easily for students. The very close second priority is to not unduly burden the colleges that are working with us to create the new mechanism.

To uphold those two priorities, we may have to extend our date to go live with students in the exchange to the Fall 2016 term, which will allow for ample procedure testing prior to courses having students registering across colleges.

One of the things we said initially was that we would not experiment on our students. We have changed timelines before, because trying to put something out prematurely for the sake of sticking to a schedule does not constitute effective practice, and we will carry that philosophy forward as we build the Course Exchange. The ability to flexibly respond to the implementation complexities of OEI activities helps us make this initiative effective for students. Stay tuned as we assess the development of this important exchange mechanism and adjust timing as needed.


Personally, I am in month 13 of my tenure as the OEI Executive Director and I keep thinking things will quiet down! OK, so my expectations are off a bit. This morning I thought of all of the complex solutions that need to be determined and implemented in this initiative and wondered why I thought I could do this job!

If you were at the Online Teaching Conference in June, you heard me talk about what, in my background, makes me think that meeting the goals of this initiative is possible. My life as a technology-using educator has taught me that accomplishing difficult things is a result of a passion to help students succeed, the ability to be flexible, faith that anything is possible, and in being able to identify passionate, hardworking, smart people who can work together. I’ve been told many times that things were impossible to accomplish, but when someone believed in me and I had excellent team participation, things were created that changed the impossible to the possible. We, community college educators, are always facing the impossible with determination to do what is good for our students and this initiative embodies that philosophy.

OEI Timeline

The current OEI timeline includes the following:

  • Tutoring platform to connect local tutors to students online, available now
  • 24/7 tutoring via NetTutor, available to all 24 pilot colleges in Fall 2015
  • Online Student Readiness modules integrated into Canvas and available to all CCCs via the web in August 2015
  • Ongoing regular instructional designer consults will be available to pilot college faculty as they transition into Canvas
  • Ongoing online course quality review process
  • New Online Teaching and Learning course for faculty release in August 2015
  • Involving Full-Launch faculty members, IT and A&R staff in design and implementation of business processes for the Course Exchange, Fall 2015 through Spring 2016. We will go live in the Exchange for the full launch pilot colleges by Fall 2016.

California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeIt’s been 18 months since work began on this massive project that’s focused on providing access to quality online learning opportunities for the students of California, and we have accomplished so much. We were selected and funded in December 2013. While it seems to me like only a few months ago, we are really on the edge of starting fiscal year three on July 1, 2015!

Recent events coupled with mandated reporting cycles have us in a period of reflection regarding the accomplishments made by the Online Education Initiative team of Foothill-De Anza Community College District and Butte College in collaboration with our many faculty and staff partners across the California Community Colleges. This edition of my blog post will cover accomplishments, amazing events and a bit about what we think the future holds.

Last week saw some major activity around three events. The first was the launch of a major refresh of the California Virtual Campus (CVC) catalog website. The second was the publishing of the Public Policy Institute of California research study report, Successful Online Courses in California’s Community Colleges. And the third was a visit to Governor Brown’s office!

Remembering CVC Beginnings

Many of you remember the shift from televised courses to online course delivery as the CVC was funded by then-Governor Wilson in 1999. There were originally five regional grants that provided joint efforts at jump-starting online education in our system. What a vision it was! The idea was to develop online courses in colleges across the state through systemwide resource development. It worked to get us started.

At that time we started professional development activities around the technology and pedagogy of online teaching, we tested resources that were made available for free to participating colleges (e.g., Turnitin plagiarism detection and Smart Thinking online tutoring service), and we shared our growing knowledge and experiences with this new form of distance education through a group of online teaching mentors and the offering of the first of many online teaching conferences, known then as the CVC Conference.

The CVC initially hosted several course management system (CMS) platforms, such as Blackboard and WebCT (with the help of the Foundation for the California Community Colleges) so colleges could offer their first online courses. The intention of the CMS hosting was initially to form a single system. Instead, colleges took on hosting or contracting with CMS vendors on their own as online courses developed. If I remember right, the reason we all took it on independently was because CVC funding needed the infusion of local college funds.


Pat James in the California Virtual Campus days

There are a couple of interesting documents you may want to read about the early days of the CVC. The first is an article in the Academic Senate for CCC Rostrum, written by Ric Matthews who was a member of the OEI Launch Team. It’s an interesting piece that both echoes the concerns of the time and the direction that we knew, even then, would have to be taken.

The second is a flyer that I remember us creating that describes the California Educational Technology Collaborative formed in 2005 as the CVC shifted from a five-region endeavor to one focused at the Chancellors’ Office. How amazing it is to look back on those early activities.

At the start of the CVC, and even in 2005, we were just beginning our online delivery journey and were not ready for what the OEI is now taking on. As 112 separate colleges, each with our own identity, we really needed some time to figure out this online education thing.

It is interesting to note that in last week’s PPIC report there was an apt description of what our efforts at developing online education became: “a piecemeal, idiosyncratic online education system…” At first I was insulted by that statement but then I realized it is an on-target description as the report does identify us correctly as we evolved (or devolved, depending on how you view it) into a non-systematic, organic approach to online learning.

The report then goes on to compliment the OEI’s current collaborative efforts to improve the quality of online education, expand access for students and share in the provision of necessary resources across the state. We know what we need to do and the time has finally come to realize some of that early CVC vision.

Important Milestone

The refresh of the CVC catalog is an important milestone in the evolution of online learning in our colleges. The new catalog will provide students with resources to find online programs and courses at our colleges. The catalog doesn’t yet address the OEI Course Exchange program that we have been working on, however, descriptions of that program and the courses and colleges within it will eventually reside at the CVC catalog.

At this juncture, we do not expect registration for the Course Exchange to take place within the catalog. It is more likely that registration for exchange courses will originate within the participating colleges own registration systems. Because of the complexity of students registering for courses seamlessly across separate colleges, a consortium is being formed to work out the details of both reciprocity agreements and technology processes needed to accomplish the goals of the Course Exchange.

Colleges will have to agree to work collectively to allow for students to register across districts. That collaboration will eventually reduce the current student practice of applying to many different colleges to get online courses that they want. The act of “swirling,” or taking courses from separate colleges as it exists now, causes students on their own to create multiple applications, lose potential financial aid, complete assessments and matriculation activities over and over again, and then make sure that units get combined appropriately into degree completions. For students, that is no small task.

So, while the refresh of the CVC catalog is a component of the OEI, it is not the sum total of the OEI efforts. That said, it is certainly wonderful to see the new look and to discover the vast online course offerings within our system. The descriptions of the Associate Degrees for Transfer that are also highlighted in the catalog are important for students to be aware of. Congratulations are due to Amy Carbonaro, Steve Klein, Tim Calhoon and others at the CCC Technology Center at Butte College for doing the important work of developing this new version of the catalog.

The CVC catalog refresh event sparked a series of press activities that are quite complimentary of the OEI efforts. Here is a sampling from SFGateCapitol Public Radio and Inside Higher Ed.

Perfect Storm

We are now at a perfect storm moment in the evolution of the OEI. The CVC refresh, the PPIC report, a visit to the Governor’s office (which I’ll discuss in a moment), and a need to update our own work plan, have all landed in the same couple of weeks!

This “storm” has caused us to reflect on our accomplishments so far. There was a mention in one of the CVC related articles by the press that noted that the CVC refresh was the first “tangible” item to come out of the OEI. I really was taken aback by that statement and complained heartedly—imagine me with hands on hips and glaring.

Of course, I was wrong to take that stance (I am nothing if not passionate!) and I do realize that the CVC refresh is one thing that the external world can see. For us, however, there are so many other things that we have achieved as a collaborative group, OEI with colleges. We have already changed the face of online education in the CCC by focusing on resourcing quality course design and resourcing student support activities.

As I prepared an information document for the Governor’s staff, I established a partial list of over 30 accomplishments, most of which I have written about here in past posts. See the illustration below.

Implementing Canvas Statewide

A major accomplishment is the selection of Canvas as a systemwide CMS. What is going on now is the implementation of the CMS within the pilot colleges and across the system at large. We thought there would be some interest in this change to a new CMS, however, we were surprised at just how much interest there is.

At the time of this writing, we are preparing a mechanism through which colleges can begin to implement Canvas college-wide as part of a first Implementation Cohort. Watch for an announcement the week of June 22 when the cost information and contract mechanism will be provided. The information will come to you via the TechEDge eNews Update and on the Canvas Resources site. We believe that the terms of adopting Canvas will be well received.

PPIC Report

There’s so much to respond to regarding the PPIC report that a separate article is needed! We hope to complete an official response to the report in the next few days. There were some really good points made in the report about the true look at online learning and its effectiveness. I’d like to highlight just two here.


Table courtesy of PPIC study

The first is that course design and the involvement of the individual instructor is critical to the success of students in online classes. (We knew that!) There is an interesting data set that shows how long individual courses have been offered related to how successful students have been in them. The data makes a case for regular course redesign and refresh. We agree!

The work we are doing through @ONE will help to provide faculty with the necessary resources to not only design new courses but to also refresh older ones that need an infusion of new design theory and improved availability of technology. We have also noticed that our work in bringing attention to effective course design over these past 18 months has encouraged colleges to step up and provide resources for faculty on a local basis. The new course design standards and review processes have been well received by so many amazing faculty members who want to make their courses better.

The second item I’d like to comment on comes from the last paragraph in the report:

New online learning technologies are shifting the debate from a zero-sum comparison of the merits of online versus face-to-face instruction to something more valuable: a discussion on how best to integrate new teaching methods into the educational process.

We consistently measure online success against success in traditional courses. I think this does a disservice to what is possible when innovative use of technology is employed to reach and provide rich educational opportunities for our students.

When we focus on a single metric (success of online vs. face-to-face) in tandem with comparisons of cost (i.e., “Is online education really a cost savings?”) we set limits on innovation. In a paper written in 2002, Is "as good as face-to-face" as Good as It Gets? author Jeannette McDonald wrote:

We are constantly being asked to compare distance education to traditional education. But by striving to make distance education "as good as" face-to-face education what are we overlooking or sacrificing? … [Are we] addressing the question of whether our evaluation methods and questions serve to free or limit the potential of online learning, perpetuating "doing things differently or doing different things?"

I remember widely distributing this article to colleagues in 2002, because I thought then, as I do now, that online education has its own potential, both apart from and in conjunction with what we do in the traditional classroom. Our students today are not like the students even 10 years ago. The capability of technology use in instruction today is not what it was in 2002, or even as it was in 2012! We limit ourselves by ignoring the possibilities and by trying to ensure the status quo as well as by comparing online to face-to-face. We can educate so many more students in so many different and more effective ways if we just get out of our own stubborn way.

Additionally, when we consider the notion that online education should be a money saver, we shift the focus away from what is best for students. We move from how-can-we-help-them-be-successful to how-can-we-save-money. I am a realist, I know that cost is important to consider. However, to sacrifice important issues of innovation and access based on the cost comparison doesn’t take into account the economic value to our state of having a highly educated population.


Bronze bear statue at the entrance to the California Governor's Office, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

State Capitol Visit

Speaking of an educated population, our visit to present OEI progress to the Governor’s staff was amazing. They were very receptive, asked great questions and really understood the impact of this initiative. We didn’t get a photo with Governor Brown—that one is still on my bucket list—but we did get a photo of the bear in front of his office. I was greatly encouraged by our visit and am so appreciative of the Governor and his staff for taking the time to meet with us, and for their positive and welcoming attitudes.

Online Teaching Conference

By the time you read this, we will be in the middle of the OTC! We have 600 people registered to attend in San Diego, with a good number of others following along via web broadcast. Again, thinking of how far we have come from the CVC Conferences of the past to the webcast revised version of today, I am so grateful for the many people who have kept alive the conference vision of being about online teaching and learning.

One such person is Blaine Morrow, who has been the catalyst for CCCConfer, 3CMedia, 3CMeNow and so much more. Blaine will be retiring this summer. I just want to thank him for all he has done for us as a system and for me as a director and manager within the system. His ability to keep the conference going, and also his work this year spearheading development of the CCC Clearinghouse, will secure his legacy in the system. Enjoy retirement, Blaine, and please accept a hearty thank you from all of us.

Full-Launch Pilot Set For Spring 2016

So what about that future I mentioned in the beginning of this very long post? It looks bright. We sent out a survey asking colleges when they would consider implementing Canvas, if at all. We received a great response and are pleased to know that the interest matches our projections.

We are on target for the Full-Launch pilot group of eight, deploying courses in Canvas that will implement a miniature version of the Course Exchange in Spring 2016. After that, we hope to develop the cross-registration system based on review of the spring pilot and start the full implementation through the consortium of exchange colleges as early as Fall 2016.

I know that’s a tall order, and we have seen in the past that dates have to shift if things aren’t ready. So, we will reconsider at the end of spring and decide the optimum time to implement a full version of the exchange, even though we are shooting for Fall 2016 at this moment in time. Remember that we are an agile initiative, and are really about doing things right even if that means adjusting timelines. Stay tuned!

Creating Educational Opportunities

There’s much work being done this summer with the revision of the student readiness tools (Quest for Success) and our tutoring solutions based on the results of the Spring 2015 pilots, ongoing review of courses and training of course reviewers, launching the new @ONE online teaching program, selecting proctoring solutions, considering online counseling needs, embedding resources for under prepared students, and addressing the needs of under represented students, just to name a few things.

Relative to “as good as face-to-face” and in regard to innovation and getting better at what we do, consider the following: In the meeting with the Governor’s staff, I mentioned that we must consider a student at any college a student of the CCC as a whole. I really believe that the OEI is a major factor in our ability to explore our own potential in collaboratively creating educational opportunities for the students of California.

P.S. Gratitude

As a post-script to this edition of my blog, I would like to give credit to some of the people who made distance educational opportunities possible in those early days, particularly Paul Meyers, Bill Doherty and Martha Mills, just to name just a few innovative folks! It is also important to thank Patrick Perry, LeBaron Woodyard, Catherine McKenzie and Bonnie Edwards for their amazing leadership that got us to this point in our development of distance education in the CCC.

Accomplishments June 2015

Online Education Initiative, Accomplishments as of June 2015

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