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Pat James, OEI Executive DirectorThis is likely my last blog post as the Executive Director of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI).

I have complete confidence in the ability of the established OEI team under the direction of Jory Hadsell to continue the philosophy that we do what is good for students in all cases and continue the good work of the initiative.

I think I should say something about the national elections, so, what I’ve noticed is that, as educators, we rally around our students, calming their fears and nurturing them through difficult times and preparing them to function effectively in the times ahead. My 13-year old grandson awoke on Nov. 9 and asked if Trump won. When I said, “Yes”, he asked what we should do. I said that we needed to get up and do our jobs. His is to become educated and mine is to help as many people as possible to be educated and able to critically think for themselves. This is what we do in an open-access system and it’s why I love this one so much.

As I reflect on my time working with the college community through this initiative, I’d like to identify some of the most important accomplishments we have made together.

OEI Course Exchange: It’s On!

Registration through the exchange will begin for Spring 2017, starting with several colleges in November, and more of the initial eight in December. It’s an amazing effort on the part of our colleges and the CCC Technology Center at Butte College, in collaboration with the OEI team. The 16 other pilots are staging now for Fall 2017.

Canvas Adoption

The big story, though, is that 98 colleges have opted to adopt Canvas as their course management system. The benefits to students and the system will be huge going forward. I’ve listed some of them below:

  • Consistent online learning environment experience for students across the system
  • Ability to deploy critical resources for students through a common platform
  • Enabling of a complete ecosystem that not only helps students directly but also allows for effective professional development for faculty and staff
  • Economies of scale in the purchasing of one CCMS that will save at least $12 million statewide
  • Continued opportunity for sharing effective practices in online teaching and learning through the community provided through the platform
  • Capability of the system to access learning analytics through the use of a common data management process
  • User-friendly teaching and learning environment that is adaptable to the needs of our 113 colleges

Ecosystem Of Resources

California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeAmong our accomplishments is creation of the ecosystem of resources that include, but are not limited to: Online learner readiness tools; online tutoring services and a platform to connect on-campus tutors with students; an online counseling platform and training in methods for online counseling; comprehensive professional development services and a rubric for standards in online course design; plagiarism detection solutions; digital proctoring and a proctoring network for on-ground testing; online library resource provisioning; online resources for under-prepared students; and research into strategies for ensuring equity across online courses and programs.

Adoption of the resources bolsters accreditation compliance and gives colleges a path to avoiding recommendations around distance education program deficiencies.

Cross-Registration & Enrollment

Another major achievement: The development of a method to accomplish cross-college registration and enrollment that includes a middleware solution to data transfer across disparate student information systems. (Think about what life would be like if all the colleges used one SIS!)

Stimulating Collaboration

There’s more, but my favorite accomplishment is that we have started an in-depth conversation about the relevance of online educational opportunities for students and the opportunities through which we can collaborate as educators who really care about students in California. Innovation that we generate will help us connect with the changing student demographic as well as keep us thinking and getting better at what we do.

At the Nov. 14 Board of Governors’ meeting in Sacramento, Calif., Interim Chancellor Eric Skinner made a comment about our colleges being responsive to innovation and the needs of our students, and how our system is out in front of so many groundbreaking efforts. I was proud of us, of our pilot colleges, of our OEI team, and of the faculty who have been inspired to teach online. I am so fortunate to represent a system devoted to open access for students, and am delighted that we set the trend for model online programs!

For me, personally, establishment of this initiative and the recognition by the governor and legislators that online learning is important to students have fulfilled a long-standing dream of mine that was sparked in the early California Virtual Campus (CVC) days. We stand to gain so much in what we can learn from each other and I hope you all keep it growing. When “the way we do education” is seamlessly inclusive of online and on-campus methodologies, we will be able to point to the CVC’s early work and establishment of the OEI as pivotal moments in the history of education for the CCC and the country.


As some of you know, I read Madisyn Taylor on occasion. This week she captured my feelings about my work with distance education in our system over the last 16 years:

"We spend our lifetimes being nourished and enlivened by the rain, sun, soil and wind. Our experience is blessed by other living beings, from plants to insects to birds and humans. We receive so much; giving back just naturally feels good. When we live our lives with intention of leaving this temporary home a better place for generations to come, we are perhaps leaving behind the best gift of all."

I’ll miss being in the middle of the activity but I will hang around as much as you all let me, and be incredibly grateful for the opportunities you all have given me over the years and with this initiative.

See you at the Online Teaching Conference next year!

— Pat

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