Working Together

California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeThe California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) has recently hit some major milestones–most significantly the selection of Instructure’s Canvas as the common course management system (CCMS) for our colleges.

The process actually started last summer at the Distance Education Coordinators’ Retreat in San Diego. It continued in fall, with the formation of the full CCMS Committee comprised of the CCMS Workgroup of the OEI Steering Committee and representatives of the Full Launch Pilot Colleges, and culminated with the selection on Feb. 5, 2015.

I’d like to give a shout-out to OEI staff members Steve Klein, John Sills and Amy Carbonaro for putting together the massive effort around this selection, to Joe Perret who serves as the committee chair from the OEI Steering Committee, and to Phil Hill, an education-technology consultant and analyst who did an excellent job of facilitating the demos and deliberation meeting. I also want to sincerely thank the faculty, staff and especially the students who so whole-heartedly and freely gave of their time.

I was around when we formed regional representation for the California Virtual Campus in the late ‘90s. At that time, we discussed implementing a common system, but instead we allowed schools to get their online courses offered initially in a variety of state-hosted systems. Colleges then began to select and procure their own CMS, and we were off working differently from each other from the beginning.

We wanted courses to be offered to all students across a single system at that time, but we were just starting and certainly not ready for such a concept. The result was a great program for seeding the development of quality online education across the colleges, the beginnings of professional development for online teachers, the testing of resources and the development of a catalog of online courses offered by different colleges. Today, we know so much about our online selves and our online students. We also finally have the ability to create more effective programs and share our knowledge with each other.

What’s Best For Students?

The focus of the CCMS selection committee was on what is best for students. We set aside our individual attachments and looked carefully at the bigger picture. Our student representatives all commented on how meaningful it was for them to see the degree of concern for student success that was displayed by our CCC people during the days of deliberation. It was meaningful to me, too.

I won’t go into describing the entire selection process here. If you want to know about it, there’s a good description at TechEDge. I do want to comment on the amazing ability of the large group of representatives to truly put the students and the bigger picture in the center of their deliberations.

I don’t think I have ever been more proud to be in a group of people or more proud of the people who make up California Community Colleges. The decision was nearly unanimous and the voting was done by each member standing—rather than simply raising their hands—to indicate their decision. I can honestly say that we stood up for the students of California. I was brought to tears from being so overwhelmed with the consideration the group showed for this momentous decision.


OEI Professional Development Summit, Feb. 20-21, 2015

A big part of my consideration was focused on how committed the CMS vendor would be to a partnership. It is incredibly important that we work with someone who understands that it’s the development of a CMS that we are after. No CMS I’ve ever experienced does all of what we need to teach online. This is our opportunity to create something we can use to truly enhance learning and teaching that incorporates what we have learned over the last decade, and also allows us to explore new ground together. Summing up the selection process, I’d like to say strongly that we have put students first and will continue to do so, and together we will develop and create our way into this new era of online education in our colleges.

The ‘Morning After’

So, just like after any big event, there’s a lot of energy around the event, but then what? For us it was moving right to the Professional Development Creative Summit that took place in San Diego on Feb. 20-21. Approximately 90 educators from the 24 pilot colleges met to discuss the future of the OEI and to consider the implications of the more than 70 individual course reviews that have been accomplished over the last several months. The success of this event lies squarely with Julie Adams and her staff of the Academic Senate for CCC (ASCCC). Julie and her staff did a wonderful job setting up the logistics for the event and it was a great experience thanks to them. The Paradise Point staff was also amazing! I also want to thank Michelle Pilati from our management team, who worked tirelessly with Anna Stirling, Lene Whitney-Puz and Micah Orloff, all of @ONE, to plan and execute this event. I’d also like to thank the ASCCC, Mt. San Jacinto College, and Mira Costa College for lending us projection equipment!

There were meetings and workshops and time spent in conversation. I have to say that the energy was incredibly positive and very strong!

Faculty members who had courses reviewed as part of the pilots were able to meet one-on-one with the amazing instructional design staff hired by @ONE to help us. This activity received high praise from the attendees and is something we will continue to offer both online and through regional events that start next month!

There were workshops on accessibility, video use in online courses, and how to increase interactivity. We held meetings to gather information and share plans around the idea of the course exchange, as well as lengthy discussions about deployment of the CCMS, Tutoring, and Readiness solutions. Again, I was overwhelmed most of those two days by the open enthusiasm for working in this new endeavor and the focus on what is good for students.


OEI Pop-Up Book

At the end of the two days, one faculty member (who was also at the CCMS selection meetings) commented that she knew there were many still unanswered questions, but she had confidence in our ability to answer them and to build a successful system. That, for me, was a highlight of my two-day experience! It is so important to me that you all understand that this is about creating something together. I had a pop-up book that stayed on the podium at the front of the general session meetings. It is symbolic for me to show that the OEI is not an idea that was instantaneously fully formed. Instead, it is a combination of dreaming big (Thank you Bonnie Edwards), collaboration and hard work.

Next Steps

CCMS: So, what’s next? Now we really have to jump into the hard work of negotiations with Instructure to determine when and how deployment happens. We know that colleges are considering adoption and will create a package of information that can be shared with faculty as they consider their decisions. We also know that many of you are worried about switching systems, both in the elements of the task and the timing of the deployments. During the next month we will be developing a timeline to address the initial implementation. The members of the management team are also willing to visit colleges, if invited, to discuss adoption and why we selected this particular CMS. Just let us know!

Remember, no one will be mandated to adopt Canvas, but we think you will really want to. It will be a requirement for any courses offered in the exchange component of the OEI. Colleges may choose to adopt Canvas, but not be part of the exchange, and that is totally OK.

Professional Development: Professional development summits will also be scheduled throughout the next few semesters and we will publish dates and locations as soon as they are solidified. The new online teaching course and modules are now in development by @ONE, and should be available this summer! Instructional design support mechanisms are also being developed.

OTC: The Online Teaching Conference is coming up June 18-19 at the San Diego Convention Center and the call for presentations is now open! There will be a DE Coordinators’ retreat on the 17th.

Course Exchange: The details of the course exchange component of the project will continue to be worked out in collaboration with the pilot colleges, the Chancellor’s Office staff, and others across the colleges (for a description of the idea, see earlier blog posts). We plan to develop pilot courses in Canvas through the spring and summer, with faculty teaching these courses with students enrolled in them for Fall 2015. The exchange component is scheduled to begin in Spring 2016 (all things considered).


  • Tutoring solutions should be available through the Foundation for California Community Colleges sometime in the next few weeks.
  • Readiness solutions are being revised for deployment systemwide by Spring 2016, if not before.
  • Underprepared-student support is being developed and piloted now, with more information coming by summer.
  • Proctoring solutions are being researched and more information about their availability will be coming later this semester.
  • Online counseling support is also in the research phase.
  • Course review activities are being revised and will start again in the next month or so.

I know there’s more, but those are the highlights for now. Whew! I need a nap…

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