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California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeIn the last issue of TechEDge, I shared some of the groundbreaking work that the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) is doing to launch the Course Exchange, and also reflected on the amazing systemwide collaboration that has been born out of the Canvas adoptions happening at our colleges. In this issue, I’ll peel back the curtain a bit and show how, beyond technology development and implementation, the OEI is helping to drive other impacts on student success that are not necessarily made up of software or circuits.

One example is the work our team has been doing in partnership with the newly re-constituted Distance Education and Educational Technology Advisory Committee (DEETAC) and the Academic Affairs Division of the CCC Chancellor’s Office to explore how certain regulations written 20 or 30 years ago can be applied to a digital-learning ecosystem.

Student Support In The Digital Age

More specifically, the OEI team has been directly engaged with Chancellor’s Office leadership and DEETAC to provide regulatory clearance for the secure transfer of data between colleges with the informed consent of a student. This is an effort to update regulations to match the digital age so we can meet the expectations of 21st century learners for instant access and real-time transactions.

While that may sound wonky, consider that most of the regulations our colleges operate under were written before the digital age. While the technology for real-time data transfer or validation exists, we are at times held back from harnessing these capabilities by regulations or policies written in a time when such things were not imagined by rule-makers. By revisiting interpretation and seeking Title 5 or Education Code changes when necessary, we are laying the groundwork for a much more robust and responsive student support infrastructure.

Closing The Achievement Gap

In looking at some additional ways to support student success, the OEI Student Services team is engaged in a research project aimed at identifying specific strategies for closing the online achievement gap. This is a substantial project that is partnering the OEI with the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), the Research and Planning Group for CCC (RP Group), and the USC Center for Urban Education (CUE).

While California is a multi-region state with broad shifts in demography between regions, there is a common need to identify support strategies and approaches that can aid in closing the online achievement gap between and among demographic groups. Prior to beginning this research project, our data showed that in online sections piloting OEI resources, and with courses participating in peer online course review, students belonging to groups such as Puente and Umoja showed the most significant gains in success across all groups. While the data is early and the sample size relatively small (and the report forthcoming from the RP Group), our Online Student Equity Workgroup has developed an equity framework (see image below) to inform the research, and is excited to take on the task of identifying critical success strategies.

California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative: Online Equity Framework

Partnering For Student Support Services

Partnerships are another way the OEI is driving other innovations. Because of the scale of the work we are doing to create an online education ecosystem for the CCC – the largest system of higher education in the world – our team frequently has the opportunity to make connections and form beneficial partnerships. In collaboration with the Foundation for California Community Colleges and the CollegeBuys program, the OEI has embarked on a strategic journey to develop contracts with vendors providing online instructional and student support services that can yield significant discounts for the state.

Agreements are in place that can save colleges 20 percent to 46 percent over individual pricing by leveraging our statewide agreements for online counseling, tutoring, proctoring, plagiarism detection, and a student readiness diagnostic. More agreements are on the horizon, as the OEI continues its mission of expanding access to online courses, programs and support resources.

Your Dedication Makes It Possible

Finally, I want to share an observation of mine that the hard work we are all collectively doing to support online learners – whether in the classroom, in support of a distance education program or as technologists – is made even more enjoyable by the incredible people involved. Having been at various conferences, events or workshops of late, I am consistently impressed by the talent, dedication and cooperative spirit that exists in the distance education and educational technology space.

As the conference season begins to come to a close in the next several weeks, it is worth reflecting on the positivity, hospitality, can-do spirit and commitment to online education that is evident in my travels. My hope is that the OEI continues to inspire and support those across our state who, day in and day out, are supporting student success.

Jory Hadsell, EdD, is Executive Director of
the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative