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California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeIn ongoing efforts to improve student success and completion rates, the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) is developing strategies for closing the online equity gap among our diverse student population.

This commitment also involves examining the institutional, systemic and learning barriers that result in inequitable outcomes and disparate impact in course and degree completion rates in online education.

Established in May 2016, the OEI’s Online Student Equity Work Group conducted preliminary research and found that most of California’s community colleges do not have online learning or distance education in their college Student Equity plans, or have provisions to address this relatively new cohort of students – despite a noticeable achievement gap among underrepresented student groups participating in online learning. The OEI is partnering with colleges to highlight the equity issues associated with online learning, and encourage inclusion of OEI-recommended strategies into college Student Equity plans, with the eventual outcome being institutional implementation.

Equitable Online Services

From its inception, the OEI has focused on offering student support services that allow all students equitable access, and an increased chance of success in the online environment. Currently, the OEI provides the community college system with access to free or low-cost use of a variety of online platforms such as counseling, tutoring, proctoring and online student readiness multimedia resources. Outcome data from the use of these services help inform decision-making around the uses of these services for equity purposes.

Taking it a step further, during the upcoming 2017-18 academic year, the OEI Online Student Equity Work Group will focus on developing an equity framework to assist colleges by embedding equity-minded principles and practices into instruction, counseling, student services and the overall online campus environment.

Online Equity Components chartThe work group is currently in discussion with the University of Southern California’s (USC) Center for Urban Education and the CCC’s RP Group to develop the scope and parameters of the research necessary to determine the impact of equity gaps on our students and colleges. Research and information captured will inform the instructional design process, as well as rubrics for online instructional design, counseling and additional student services programs and departments.

The Work Ahead

The OEI Online Student Equity Work Group is excited about the work ahead. Some of its future goals include:

  • Identifying strategies for providing and improving access to online student services, both access services (Financial Aid, Admission and Records), as well as continued support services (counseling, tutoring, student engagement);

  • Developing an equity module for online counseling services;

  • Connecting an online student withdrawal survey to a college course withdrawal process to capture why students drop online courses. The mechanism should allow students to self-report their reasons for withdrawing from courses, and the data from this survey would be gathered and scrutinized for common reasons among high-need student groups;

  • Creating a greater online presence on the OEI website for providing updated information pertaining to the OEI online student equity work;

  • Finalizing an Equity Rubric to reflect and promote Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CRTL) pedagogy, Cultural Humility pedagogy and other high impact practices.

Existing research indicates that success rates increase when students feel directed, focused, nurtured, engaged, connected and valued ("Student Support (Re)defined," RP Group). With regard to online student equity, the OEI has engaged with governance groups, researchers and stakeholders to provide institutions with the resources and support needed to facilitate student success. The main goal is to inform the approach to addressing policies and practices that may result in disparate student impact and inequities related to course and degree completion.

Arnita Porter is Chair of the Student Equity Work Group of
the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI)

Bonnie Peters is the OEI's Chief Student Services Officer