Creating Dangerously

OEI Updates, California Community CollegesI write this as I am headed to Educause in Orlando, Fla. The days are packed with a myriad of details to be addressed as the Online Education Initiative (OEI) winds up development of requests for proposals (RFPs).

As we near completion of RFPs for the common course management system (CCMS) and pilot tutoring solutions, every moment is a combination of planning, communication, problem solving and learning—not necessarily in that order.

The Big Think

“Ahhh,” you’re thinking, “She meant to write, the big thing.” Nope, I meant the big think that is going on across the management team, steering committee and members of the large CCMS work group. That is, how do we actually create a learning environment that works for the California Community Colleges? The learning environment, as I call it, is the “ecosystem” that has been referred to in the application for the OEI, and it involves the development of more than just a common CMS.

Someone recently asked me, “Why are you calling it a CMS? Isn’t it an LMS?” My answer is that we can call it anything, but what it has to be is outside the box we’ve been in for so many years.

The concerns about management systems forcing a type of teaching practice, and moreover, the need to improve student success in online classes, are the forces driving this project to create differently. Pam Walker, our new Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at the CCC Chancellor’s Office, mentioned a quote by Albert Camus to me at the last OEI steering committee meeting. She said that we should “create dangerously.” That comment really expresses the situation well. No matter what we call things, we are creating dangerously, differently, and big!

Informing The Selection Process

Developing an RFP for a CCMS that 112 diversely-minded colleges would want to use cannot be done by “business as usual.” We need tools that grow, adapt, include and work! With that in mind, activities have been going on for the past few weeks that will inform us as we go into the actual selection phase of this adoption process. Some of those activities include, but are not limited to:

    • A large group of more than 50 faculty, staff and management team members from across the state and pilot colleges have been meeting weekly to discuss what we need and want. This group is known as the CCMS Selection Committee.
    • Distance Education experts with particular expertise in CMS work from across the country have been engaged in one-to-many online meetings with the CCMS Selection Committee to provide their consult, adding some collective wisdom to our process.
    • A variety of initial environmental scans were conducted by the launch team early in the project.
    • Several surveys about desired functionality were conducted with faculty from pilot colleges.
    • An idea-gathering tool, IdeaScale, was deployed to collect open ideas from the field.
    • Information about CMS selection strategies has been collected from individual colleges in our system, and is being reviewed by the team.
  • Meetings with experts will continue, and members of the management team trekked to Educause with that intention.

Several of my colleagues have talked to me about their concerns that we will do things the way we have always done them and we won’t end up with something new. I want to assure you that our intention, as an OEI team and as the CCC system, is to create a learning environment that will take distance learning to the next level, and the next, and the next, and will continue to advance across the years to come. I also realize that this is no small task, and hope that you will be patient with us as we work.

Incidental Learning: The Course Review Process

We have identified 30 out of more than 160 applicants to serve as course reviewers for the approximately 72 courses that will make up the first pilot implementation. The first phases of the pilots will start in January and continue through summer of 2015. It seems to me that having 30 people who are able to align courses to our standards alone will begin to make some difference in student success across the state! Just having adopted and published commonly supported standards will help us all.

All 30 members of this first cohort of course reviewers are CCC online teaching faculty. The reviewers were selected by representatives of the Academic Senate (ASCCC), the OEI team and the @ONE management team, according to a job description developed and approved within the steering committee. The reviewers will meet and begin preparing to apply the OEI-approved standards to courses that have been submitted by the pilot colleges.

All courses within the pilots will be reviewed prior to launch, for all three pilot groups. The reviewers meet Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 to begin a hybrid training process that includes two days of in-person meetings and a full week of online course participation. (I am really looking forward to being a part of that work!)

Submission of courses for review from the 24 pilot colleges will begin on Oct. 8, with actual review starting on Oct. 15. We hope to have approximately 72 courses reviewed before Spring 2015. Course submission and review will continue throughout Spring 2015, so that we have an inventory staged for addition to the course exchange as the project moves forward.

What’s In It For Me?

I hear this question a lot from my faculty colleagues. If you are wondering what would motivate a teacher to submit a course for review, and to teach in an exchange across the state, here’s what:

    • Course review is not easy to accomplish, but good teachers want to know how their classes are doing and how to improve their teaching. Formative review is helpful!
  • Instructional design support will be available in two ways: Accessibility repair and general assistance with design and creation.

De Anza College Opening Convocation, Fall 2014

    • Faculty members involved in the OEI will have access to other faculty to share with and learn from through no-cost professional development opportunities. We are planning to facilitate “creativity summits” for the faculty in the OEI as soon as possible.
    • Resources, such as online tutoring and readiness tools, for a start, will be provided to their students.
    • They will be able to work with a forwardly designed delivery system for their classes.
    • They will have access to online courses to provide them with professional growth opportunities as online teachers.
    • Those who are involved with creating the OEI project have the opportunity to have a voice in what it becomes.
  • Oh, and the main reason? They will be helping provide access to courses that will help the students of California.

On A Personal Note 

I’ve been running! The new management team met for two days as we came to take part in the Foothill-De Anza Community College District opening convocation. There was a rainbow over the De Anza campus the morning of the convocation and as the FHDA community geared up for a new academic year, so did the OEI team.

We are about implementation now, getting down “into the weeds,” as OEI Launch Team member Anita Crawley would say. I love it! I am maintaining my focus on what’s best for students and looking forward to the year ahead. Over the next few months, I’ll be attending the WCET Connect annual conference (see story), Community College League of California annual convention, the San Diego CCD Technology Summit, the Strengthening Student Success Conference, ASCCC Plenary, and other events where I can meet and hear from you. Please keep in touch!

I am off now to an Educause session to learn the latest about Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). There’s so much more to tell you! I’ll come back here this week and add in comments to keep you up to date. Please feel free to add questions or comments to this post. I want to hear from you!

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