The end of 2016 and move into 2017 kicks off a transition to a new phase for the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI). Having served as the Chief Academic Officer for the project since almost the beginning of the initiative, and more recently taking over as Executive Director behind the legendary Pat James, I have had the opportunity to see the growth and progress of the OEI from an up-close perspective.
The “early days” involved activities like brainstorming, developing governance structures, identifying pilot groups and writing implementation plans. More recently, much of the work had moved toward supporting adoption of the Canvas common course management system, integrating student support resources into courses, building out the course design review process, and working with the Course Exchange development team to define requirements and watch their amazing progress.
Now, having cheerily rung in the new year, the OEI has evolved to a new phase focused on implementation of several core components, measuring the impact of the infrastructure and student support resources, building out the online learning ecosystem at scale, and expanding the availability for colleges and courses to participate in the Course Exchange.
Already, 2017 has been action-packed. Below are a few noteworthy items that serve as a bit of a progress report on key project components.
Over the past few weeks, members of our team have successfully put the first version of the Course Exchange into production with a simultaneous launch between Fresno City College and Lake Tahoe Community College. This has been literally years in the making, and both colleges deserve kudos for taking on this historic launch. Their local staffs have been absolutely amazing and dedicated to the project’s success.
We have additional colleges making local preparations to move the Course Exchange into production with students in the coming weeks. One of the key lessons we have learned working with the first eight “full launch” pilot colleges is that static timelines must shift to dynamic ones that take into consideration the flexibility needed for each college. We have seen that efforts to bring large groups of colleges online at the same time do not account for differences in local technology infrastructure or changes to local business processes that may be needed. Therefore, we have shifted to an implementation model reflecting the individualized needs of each college — with the college making the move to “go live” when both college leadership and the OEI staff have full confidence in the move to production with students.
Funding Outlook: Canvas & Student Support Resources
Over the past several months, the OEI leadership team has been working with the CCC Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) staff to draft a budget change proposal (BCP) seeking additional ongoing funding for the OEI. The request, which was supported by the CCCCO and Board of Governors, would provide funding to cover the full cost of the Canvas common course management system, systemwide, on an ongoing basis. (Note: With current funding levels, the OEI has committed to fully funding the cost of Canvas through the 2018-19 academic year.) The BCP also requested funds to increase the scale of several online services that are required for accreditation and by regulation.
I was thrilled to see that the governor’s Jan. 10 proposed budget included the $10 million requested through the BCP. The governor and legislature continue to stand behind their commitment to increasing access for our students to high-quality online courses, and this funding would be a major component for sustaining the technology infrastructure of our online learning ecosystem. In the coming weeks, I will be working with members of our leadership team and the CCCCO staff to provide information that we hope will be helpful to the governor and legislative staff in determining their final budget priorities related to this item. We hope to see our request remain in the final budget package later this year.
Impacting The National Dialogue
On Jan. 14, the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) released a higher education supplement to the National Educational Technology Plan titled “Reimagining the Role of Technology in Higher Education.” I am proud to share that the OEI is featured as a case study on page 41 of the document. In talking with leaders from the DoE, they were particularly impressed by the scale of collaboration across our system by colleges involved in the OEI, the sophistication of the underlying technology created by the development team, and the ability for multiple colleges and governance groups to come together to support an emphasis on course quality while also focusing on increased access.
While there were many other programs and projects examined, not all were able to make it into the final report. The fact that the OEI made it into the final draft is a testament to all those who have worked on the project from the ground up — whether programmers, tech support, project directors, faculty or college staff.
All of these elements, taken together, demonstrate the magnitude of the work that lies ahead. As a project, we will continue to honor the values our community college system holds dear, while working to further the amazing collaboration we have seen across colleges and with our partners to date. Working together as a system, putting the needs of our students first, we can help our students complete their educational goals.
Jory Hadsell is Executive Director of
the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative