Improving Online CTE Pathways Grant Program – Overview


With an open access mission, the California Community Colleges are positioned to support our diverse population to increase wages and improve social mobility in a rapidly changing economy. The California Virtual Campus (CVC) created the Improving Online Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathways grant program to meet two goals established by the California state legislature: support students pursuing career and technical education pathways and/or support students moving from the fully online Calbright College to an existing California Community College.

Using one-time funding of $35 million in the 2018-19 budget, the CVC awarded competitive grants of up to $500,000 to a total of 70 California Community Colleges to develop online courses, short-term certificates (e.g., Certificates of Achievement), and/or degree programs in a variety of CTE disciplines. College completed this work within an 18-month grant period, from July 01, 2019 to December 31, 2020.

Grant projects focused on three areas: (a) improving access to and quality of existing online CTE programs, (b) increasing the number of online CTE programs that meet workforce needs, and (c) supporting online CTE student access to critical support services and preparing faculty, staff, and campus leaders to support them. Overall, all grant projects focused on accelerating innovative online learning opportunities leading to increased employability and upward mobility for working Californians.

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Grant Information

The Improving Online CTE Pathways grant program was designed to support online education interventions that colleges and/or districts expected would produce meaningful improvements in online student education outcomes. The CVC awarded competitive grants to a total of 70 California Community Colleges. Grant projects were implemented within an extended, 18-month grant timeline from July 01, 2019, through December 31, 2020. A six-month extension to the original 12-month grant period was added to give colleges additional time to address various COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges. Grants ranged in size from roughly $100,000 to a maximum of $500,000 per college/district. Grants were awarded to individual colleges or districts, or multiple colleges and/or districts working together as partners. A key area of focus for grantees involved creating models that could be shared and scaled easily across the California Community College system.

The Improving Online CTE Pathways grant program was designed to leverage existing capabilities and partnerships within the California Community College system, and to integrate with and complement the broader student access and success objectives with which CVC has been tasked. Colleges were encouraged to engage with their existing local industry partners to develop, improve and expand online programs in response to regional workforce demands and leading to industry-valued credentials and employability. Similarly, colleges were encouraged to align their projects with California Community College Chancellor’s Office initiatives, such as the Vision for Success and Guided Pathways.

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Project Goals & Areas of Emphasis

In addition to addressing the goals from the legislature, the CVC established a framework to provide for impact in communities served by any college, regardless of how mature or robust that college’s online program might be. To guide the colleges, streamline their project goals, and align project operations with the legislature’s intent for these grant awards, grant applicants selected (a) one of three approved tracks as the project’s primary goal and (b) up to three areas of emphasis (see italicized bullets).

  1. Improve access to and quality of existing online programs: Key themes emerged during discussions with stakeholders throughout the system. Maximum impact can be achieved not just by creating new online courses or programs, but more importantly by expanding access to existing but locally or regionally-siloed online CTE-oriented programs or certifications – e.g., increase capacity or frequency of sections not available anytime / anywhere; and support colleges to improve the quality, accessibility, and equity of existing offerings.

    1. Increase access to existing online certificates, credentials or programs.
    2. Increase visibility of existing online certificates, credentials or programs.
    3. Improve quality of existing online certificates, credentials or programs.
    4. Expand availability of C-ID designators for CTE courses.
  2. Increase the number of online programs that meet workforce needs by filling in gaps within programs – missing content, missing courses; leveraging industry partnerships to create or expand access to online programs; and encourage collaboration between colleges to offer joint programs.

    1. Fill gaps in existing on-ground certificates, credentials or programs.
    2. Build an online certificate, credential or program that addresses regional workforce needs.
    3. Develop a replicable model for advancing credit for prior learning pathways and solutions.
    4. Create online programs using industry content, Zero Textbook Cost Materials, and/or Open Educational Resources.
    5. Review industry-approved curriculum
  3. Support students, faculty, staff and campus leaders by supporting the student groups that could most benefit from expansion of online, by offering targeted support structures.

    1. Create a jointly offered program with another college or district in the CCC system.
    2. Pilot tools for students to chart and track progress on academic pathways.
    3. Support students staying on their existing academic pathways.