OEI Updates: Taking Stock, Gearing Up For The Future

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.

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