As many colleges experienced a significant shift in needs as a response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, MSJC felt the need to evaluate our initial project proposal and determine the best course of action to provide the best opportunity for success to our career education students. This meant reevaluating our goals for the Improving Online CTE Pathways project too. This blog post will address our initial proposal, and how we shifted our priorities and goals in response to COVID.
Initial Need Assessment
Our initial need was determined by a steering committee comprised of full and part-time faculty, classified support staff, career education, and distance education administration, as well as executive leadership. This group took this opportunity to do an in-depth analysis of institutional strengths, weaknesses, and challenges and determined the following needs could be addressed by this project:
- Lack of CSIS Certificate Visibility and Marketing
- Challenges with Enrollment Management and Sequencing of Short-Term Online Pathways
- Disparity in Success Rates between Face-to-face and Online Courses
This allowed us to organize the project into three separate, yet highly integrated, components: (1) Quality, (2) Visibility, and (3) Access. In an effort to maintain a high standard of quality both in technology and distance education andragogy, the first grant component (1) Quality is focused on faculty professional development and training to institutionalize quality distance education student success through course design, delivery, and student support systems and services. This activity will specifically increase the skills and abilities of Mt. San Jacinto College CSIS faculty to design and offer quality online courses in alignment with the CVC-OEI Course Design Rubric and accepted learning principles. Given that the CSIS pathways are fully online, Mt. San Jacinto College will focus its second activity (2) Visibility on increasing the marketing and outreach regarding the availability of the short-term CSIS certificate/ECC pathway to existing and new potential students. Lastly, the third activity (3) Access aims to create a strategic enrollment structure and mechanism that allows for the development and implementation of short-term early and late start courses that are appropriately sequenced and adequately supported to ensure quick time-to-certificate completion.
In response to COVID-19 campus closures, we determined that we would continue to try and meet the original scope of work as identified; however, that developing the certification preparation course, testing center renovations, and issuing of certification exam vouchers would be difficult or impossible to complete. Thus, after careful review, we decided to redirect the remaining funding to increasing the quality of existing online certificates, credentials, and programs beyond the initially identified IT (Information Technology) programs. This new goal focused on providing training and course review stipends to faculty for any core course that is part of an existing CE certificate/degree program. We set a new goal of training CE faculty and aligning 45 additional CE courses with the OEI (Online Education Initiative) course design rubric with the reallocation of remaining funds.
Professional Development Funds
With the transition to almost all programs moving to a fully online delivery modality, we knew that providing faculty professional development and training related to course design, delivery, and student support systems would increase the skills and abilities of MSJC CE faculty to design and offer quality online courses in alignment with the CVC-OEI Course Design Rubric and accepted learning principles.
As one of our seasoned distance education CE faculty, Dr. Belinda Heiden Scott, reminded us, “Students need us to get this right. As students count on us, faculty, for a brighter future, and we cannot let them down. Therefore, professional development for faculty will allow us to move courses into online and hybrid environments.”
To meet this need, we focused on professional development training in Summer and Fall 2020 to prepare CE faculty for course review and alignment with the CVC-OEI Course Design Rubric.
MSJC DELTA and SQOT
At MSJC we are truly fortunate that we heavily invested in distance education support prior to the COVID-19 shift to essentially operating a fully online college (over 90% fully online instruction). The primary support for distance education is provided by the Distance Education and Learning Technology Advancement (DELTA) team. The DELTA Support Services department provides a variety of professional development and technology support to faculty who are teaching in both online and hybrid modalities. DELTA provides direct assistance to help faculty:
- Establish an equitable mindset into design delivery
- Applying an array of canvas templates designed to align with the OEI course design rubric
- Deploy a custom-designed course banner
- Connect assessments to learning objectives
- Quickly caption a video
- Make accessible pdf’s
- Incorporate accessibility into course design
This existing foundation allowed us to quickly mobilize and provide over 10 sections of the MSJC Standards for Quality Online Teaching (SQOT) professional development training in Summer and Fall 2020 to prepare CE faculty for course review and alignment with the CVC-OEI Course Design Rubric. SQOT is a 6-week online training course that provides a foundation for quality course development and delivery, focusing on:
- Compliance with federal, state, and MSJC guidelines for facilitation, fair use, copyright, and acceptable use policies in DE (Distance Education) courses.
- Compliance with American Disabilities Acts, and sections 504 and 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act.
- Designing and assessing course content that employs equity principles to increase student success, especially for disproportionately impacted students.
- Designing assessments that align with course objectives and demonstrate course outcomes.
- Developing effective course guidance, instructor and student interactions, and feedback.
As Dr. Heiden Scott describes it, “MSJC’s Standards for Quality Online Teaching (SQOT) course provided the missing link to my delivery as a content expert.” As a facilitator of the SQOT course, she explains that faculty gain skills that may not already be common to subject matter experts: “using course objectives and creating with a backward design approach provides transparency in learning and teaching and streamlines the development of content chunking into modules to deliver quality online instruction for student learning.” This was evident in Dr. Heiden Scott’s reflection upon submitting her own courses as part of the CE course review and alignment process:
DELTA provided the professional development to remove my frustration and develop and arrange course content that was deliberately connected to learning objectives, creating engagement among myself and learners and learner to learner connection. I tackled an extensive Peer Online Course Review process using the CVC-OEI Rubric and Peralta Equity Rubric with DELTA’s support to grow deeper. After going through a few course review processes, I was amazed I still had some holes in my knowledge. However, I could fill the gaps quickly by participating in DELTA learning activities. I am currently working on my fifth-course review.
And while SQOT is not solely focused on alignment with the OEI course design rubric, the principles and guidelines provided by the rubric are infused throughout the information shared and the activities faculty complete to demonstrate their knowledge and skill related to delivering a quality online course at MSJC.
MSJC’S SQOT course was originally designed to meet the MSJC Academic Senate’s recommendation and Title 5’s requirement that distance education faculty be prepared to deliver online courses. This was supported by the MSJC Educational Technology Committee developing the Recommended Preparation for Distance Education Teaching Assignments at MSJC which was adopted by the MSJC Academic Senate in November 2019. This recommended preparation document set SQOT (or equivalent) as the minimum qualifying professional development event for online teaching. When all courses shifted to online delivery in response to campus closure, MSJC did not waiver in our commitment to quality online courses and maintained that all faculty should comply with the recommended preparation guidelines.
This meant that many faculty who never planned on teaching online were now not only attempting to teach in a modality they were not prepared for, but they were also taking on six weeks of demanding professional development to ensure they were in alignment with quality standards. The design standards set forth by the OEI Course Design Rubric proved to be a challenge for many faculty. As previously shared, many CE faculty are subject matter experts and have never engaged in formal teaching or education design learning experiences. This was reiterated when asked how faculty perceived the SQOT training. Dr. Heiden Scott shared, “I saw irritation in the faces and annoyance in the faculty’s voices I was teaching,” but followed up by saying, “Faculty are working hard to move their courses into quality online delivery during a world pandemic. As quality educators, knowing we have DELTA in our back pocket, we are better prepared to teach and develop online and hybrid courses.”
Professional Development Accomplishments
- 12 six-week SQOT courses offered in 2020
- 8 faculty mentored & trained to facilitate SQOT
- 52 Career Education faculty completed SQOT
- 43 courses pending OEI Course Design Rubric Alignment (POCR)
While we were unable to fully meet the goals for our original project proposal, we are excited that this project allowed us to focus on professional development for our Career Education faculty at a time when it was most needed. By shifting our focus towards quality development and design of online courses, we are working in unison with our sister community colleges to achieve the CVC-OEI Improving Online Pathways goal to provide the best opportunity for success to our career education students. The best summary is provided by Dr. Heiden Scott, “Technology tools and processes will always be improving and changing; therefore, staying flexible to innovation and participating in professional development provides us the growth opportunities we need to support students’ success in the classroom and completion of their degrees.”
Associate Dean of Distance Education & Professional Development
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District or those of the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.