OEI Updates: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going

Pat James, Executive Director, California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative (OEI)It’s hard to believe we are already at the end of 2015. This year for the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) has been a busy one! In this blog post, I’d like to reflect on all we’ve accomplished and the results.

Some of the highlights of what the OEI has been working on:

  • Over 11,000 students have been recipients of the student success resources we have developed through pilot courses. There are likely many more who have used the online learner readiness, tutoring resources, and under-prepared student resources and have benefitted from taking courses that have been influenced by the course design standards we developed.

  • The OEI management team has presented at just about every conference and convening of educators both across the state and across the country and, just as in our online courses, relationship building has been critical to the success of the initiative’s goals.

  • Members of the OEI and @ONE teams have visited over 40 colleges this year to discuss the initiative and/or provide training on applying the Course Design Rubric and/or Canvas use.

  • Two new @ONE online courses have been developed and began to be offered in October. Canvas Train-the-Trainer workshops and Peer Online Course Reviewer trainings have been happening all over the state. Initial course reviews have been accomplished for over 70 pilot courses and are continuing through the re-review process.

  • At this writing, over 30 colleges have committed to or are adopting the Canvas common course management system (CCMS). (The list grows by the day!) It seems that just yesterday we completed the CCMS section process. The selection was made in February. The negotiations ended in the summer and adoption began in July.

  • We have held two pilot college consortium meetings with the pilot colleges represented, and will have completed an initial Course Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by January of 2016. Those meetings have been highly charged with positive energy, and very productive. The Consortium now has a charter (with some help by our Steering Committee) and it has leaders! Wendy Bass from Los Angeles Pierce College and Will Breitbach from Shasta College have been elected as co-chairs for the group.

  • A new OEI informational website has been developed and is now live at http://ccconlineed.org!

Our Guiding Principles

The OEI guiding philosophy has a foundation of doing what is best for students and as we reflect on the work over the past year, it is good to keep these guiding principles in mind as we go into the New Year:

  • Always consider what is best for students.
  • Engage in “agile” project management.
  • Innovation is “messy”.
  • Consider the big picture.
  • Involve everyone in the process.

Personally, it is a privilege to be able to connect with so many of our CCC educators and in every case we find engaged, dedicated folks who understand what their work means to the students of our state. We are strongly fostering the idea that a student of any California community college is a student belonging to all of us. When we help educate our population we help the state of California be a better place to live.

As I write this post, I am reminded of what one of our students who served on the CCMS selection committee said to us in the selection meetings in February. When asked for her “take away” from the experience, she said “I always knew that my college teachers cared about me, but I never knew how much you all care about all of us [students] until now.” That caring for students is why I continue to work in this system.

California Communty Colleges Online Education InitiativeCourse Exchange Target: Fall 2016

While there are many other important components of the initiative, the course exchange is on everyone’s mind these days. It certainly is one of the most complex tasks we are involved in!

It seems as though calling the idea of students taking classes at multiple colleges is not so much that of a course exchange as it is a student exchange. For the pilot of the exchange, all eight pilot colleges will have their students able to enroll across colleges and they will be offering courses for other school’s students, as well. All are participating as both “home” and “teaching” colleges. The exchange is still on target to launch the pilot in Fall 2016.

What is becoming clearer is that the purpose of the exchange will be to not only allow students to get the courses they need to complete in a timely way, but it will also allow for the colleges to develop a variety of collaborative programs across the Consortium.

The Exchange Mechanism

The technology required for the development of the exchange is moving rapidly forward. The developers at the CCC Technology Center are listening to our requirements and are doing a fantastic job of interpreting them within the development work. I am now very confident that a technical solution to solve the student “swirling” problem is possible!

The MOU that consists of the agreements among the eight exchange pilot colleges will be completed in January and form the foundation for the pilot of the exchange. Those agreements will be reviewed and revised throughout this year and beyond by the Consortium in collaboration with the Steering Committee, the OEI management team, and the CCC Chancellor’s Office staff. The results of the exchange trial in Fall 2016 will be critical for determining future policies and practices for the 24 pilot colleges and the system as a whole. The MOU is expected to evolve as we move past the pilot phases of the initiative.

Canvas Adoption Continues

The adoption of the Canvas CCMS by colleges in the system continues! There has been a surge in the last few months with colleges identifying timelines for adoption that fits their needs relative to the situations with current systems. We are continuing to visit colleges to discuss the possibilities for adopting, and are seeing new decisions to adopt happening every week.

If your college is considering the Canvas option, you will want to visit our Canvas site for further information. There, you’ll find a complete guide for how to have the conversation about CMS choice and how to implement should you choose to adopt Canvas.

The benefits to deciding to opt in to Canvas as the statewide CCMS system are many. Some of the immediate ones are:

  • Your college will be part of a community of educators designing the future of the CCMS as it goes forward.

  • Canvas is a CMS that is easy to use for students and faculty.

  • The CCMS will be integrated among the services available across the systemwide initiatives including resources being piloted now (Online Tutoring and Student Readiness Modules, etc.) in the OEI.

  • Professional development opportunities for using Canvas will be provided through the initiative at no cost to your college.

  • Course migration support will be provided.

  • If your college is hosting your current CMS, your college will no longer have costs associated with a self-hosting infrastructure.

  • Upgrades will be completed on a systemwide basis.

  • Additional resources will be integrated over time.

  • Significant cost reduction of the cost of the CMS as it will be subsidized by initiative funds.

  • The RFP/procurement process has been thoroughly conducted thus saving your college time in the adoption process.

Professional Development

Right now the focus of professional development is in two areas: aligning courses with the OEI Course Design Rubric and learning to use Canvas. The 12-week Online Education Standards and Practices course is scheduled to begin in Spring. Watch for further announcements from @ONE about that.

Working with the OEI team, @ONE has ramped up offering the four-week Canvas training course with up to six sessions planned for spring semester. They are working on the train-the-trainer module, as well, and are moving about the state teaching people to teach the @ONE Canvas course at their home colleges. Please see the announcement below for registration information:

California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative

Academic Integrity Resources

The Academic Integrity Work Group of the OEI Steering Committee has been working over the past several months to identify resources to enhance academic integrity in online courses. The focus has been to identify and secure tools that can seamlessly integrate into Canvas and provide two key ingredients for course integrity: online proctoring solutions that include student identity verification and tools for identifying and preventing instances of student plagiarism.

The work group and project leadership have been working with CollegeBuys, part of the Foundation for California Community Colleges, to facilitate the request for proposals and to secure agreements that provide the most aggressive pricing for the OEI and that can be extended to any California community college. Simply put: By identifying the best products and pooling our volume as a system, we create new possibilities for every college, student, and faculty member in our system.

Proctoring & Student Exam Authentication

The work group evaluated multiple proposals for online test proctoring and authentication and selected Proctorio as the best technology fit for our system. Pilot colleges will have access to Proctorio at no cost within their Canvas instances.

Proctorio provides faculty and students with a non-intimidating, simple workflow for capturing student identity and monitoring behavior during online tests. Faculty can easily adjust levels of required test security, with a wide variety of tools and options that include an ID check; lockdown browser; facial recognition technology; visual, auditory and computer-based behavior monitoring and capture; machine algorithms that analyze behaviors and metadata to flag unusual behavior by an individual student and across students taking a single exam; and an intuitive interface for reviewing flagged behaviors, including a downloadable incident log, among other features.

Another noteworthy feature is the ability to generate metadata across students and exams to flag suspected instances of fraud. With increasing scrutiny and prevalence of financial aid fraud in online courses, this is an important consideration. The contract is in the process of being finalized and executed this week. More information will be forthcoming shortly in a separate announcement.

The Academic Integrity Work Group also expressed a strong interest in providing a proctoring option to address situations in which face-to-face proctoring is needed. Therefore, as part of the OEI Steering Committee recommendation to move forward with Proctorio for online proctoring, the management team will also be working to put in place a network of participating colleges to form a face-to-face proctoring network. This geographically diverse network would allow any online CCC student to access a human proctor within a reasonable distance at no cost to the student. OEI staff will be soliciting interest and forming the agreements during the coming Spring 2016 semester.

Preventing Plagiarism

The Academic Integrity Work Group has outlined specifications for plagiarism prevention and detection software. The RFP process led by the Foundation did not lead to a vendor contract. However, the community college system has an existing pricing agreement with Turnitin.com that allows for discounted tiers as colleges pool their collective FTES volume. The features of Turnitin are largely in line with the functionality requested by the work group. Many colleges already use this agreement to license Turnitin with their existing CMS, including several pilot colleges.

The OEI management team is in the process of implementing a short-term agreement to license Turnitin for those pilot colleges that do not currently have a Turnitin license. The short-term agreement will provide licensing for Turnitin services between January and June for all courses migrated to the Canvas CCMS. We have received assurances from Turnitin that pilot colleges with existing contracts may undergo a second integration into Canvas with no additional licensing costs or fees.

To address longer term needs, the OEI is partnering with other systems and stakeholders to seek a longer term licensing agreement that reduces the cost of Turnitin. The existing CCC pricing expires this coming year, and we want to help secure an agreement with more aggressive pricing to benefit any California community college.

Online Counseling Network

After eight months of hard work and planning, the OEI has selected a meeting and collaboration platform, which will serve as the technological anchor and foundation of its Online Counselors’ Network Project, which is intended to serve online learners. On behalf of the OEI, the Foundation made the announcement of its intent to award the contract to Cranium Café, Salt Lake City, Utah.

With counselors trained in how to counsel online and on the use of the Cranium Café platform, the OEI’s Online Counselors’ Network will offer a new and efficient way to provide virtual counseling support services to online CCC students.

Initially counselors from participating OEI pilot colleges will be invited to participate in the network and will be offered the opportunity to utilize the Cranium Café platform to facilitate individual and group synchronous counseling sessions, online workshops, drop-in/walk-in sessions as well as online group presentations. Subsequently this service will be made available to any of the 113 community colleges interested in having trained online counselors and in using the platform to deliver online counseling for all online students.

The launch of the Online Counselors’ Network and the use of Cranium Café services is intended for mid-Spring 2016.

OEI Online Counselors’ Network Components

Educational Technology Platform:

  • Partnership with Cranium Café online meeting and collaboration platform

Network Structure and Approach:

  • Partner with participating OEI pilot colleges to establish a uniform approach to online counseling
  • Create a community of online counselors trained in working with online students utilizing the same platform

Professional Development and Standards:

  • Develop, deliver and standardize professional development training and materials aligned to the National Board of Certified Counselors standards for distance counseling professionals

Have a great holiday break!

–Pat

P.S. Thanks go to Bonnie Peters and Jory Hadsell for contributions made to this post.


Pat James is Executive Director of the
California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative


 

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