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CCC Online Education Initiative Professional Development Summit

Enthusiasm is building around the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) after a recent Summit of CCC distance education professionals brought one of the OEI’s more complex elements into focus.


The OEI Professional Development Creative Summit, held February 20 and 21 in San Diego, convened 75 representatives from all 24 OEI pilot colleges to get a clearer picture of the OEI Course Exchange, scheduled to launch in Spring 2016. The Summit also reviewed what to expect during the Summer 2015 pilot of courses through the Canvas Common Course Management System (CCMS). In addition, faculty members who previously submitted courses to be reviewed for inclusion in the Course Exchange received individual feedback for course improvements.

That one-on-one coaching was valuable not just for ensuring course quality but for rallying faculty support for the eventual Course Exchange, noted Autumn Bell, Director of Distance Education and Instructional Design at Fresno City College, one of the OEI Full Launch colleges that will pilot the courses through the new CCMS.

“I brought three instructors with me who will be teaching courses in the pilot. The thing they really liked was the opportunity to sit down with instructional designers and look at how they can improve their classes,” Bell said. “They had gone through the review process and received the [OEI Course Design] Rubric, and they were a little intimidated by all of it. But once they got individual feedback, they felt better about the whole process, and they came away so excited about participating in the pilot.”

Gearing Up For Summer Pilot

@ONE, which is working closely with the OEI, facilitated the Summit. In addition to the one-on-one feedback sessions, one-hour workshops were presented that delved into specific areas of the OEI Course Design Rubric. The Rubric is meant to ensure quality of course design as well as overall quality of courses to be offered in the Course Exchange.

Summit participants were also provided with important details about Canvas, the present and future status of the upcoming pilots and plenty of behind-the-scenes information concerning the overall development of the OEI.

“I have a clearer understanding of what the OEI leadership team is doing to pave the way for the eventual Course Exchange, including working with the Chancellor’s Office, addressing things like reciprocity agreements between colleges, and making things smoother for the colleges,” Bell said. “The exchange brings up some complicated questions about residency, admissions and records, matriculation and so forth. I’m now able to let people on my campus know what’s going on to support this and what we need to do to make it successful.”

Course Exchange Taking Shape

The OEI Course Exchange is the one of the most complex and least understood components of the initiative. Meant to enable students to take online classes from across a group of participating colleges, it entails developing business processes and standards to ensure consistent quality and effective data transfer between colleges, while keeping the process simple for students.

“The big walk-away for me was being able to see it appearing, this monster that was very generally described in the RFP two years ago,” said Bob Nash, Associate Dean of Distance Learning & Professional Development at Coastline Community College, another OEI Full Launch Pilot site. “There were so many questions, all these moving parts and grand timelines. Those of us who have been around a while walked in with a bit of skepticism about making it really happen. But people are beginning to see the vision and believe it will actually happen and that our students can benefit from it.”

“There was a feeling of enthusiasm there that I haven’t seen before,” Nash added. “I left very positive about what we can accomplish.”

The prevalent enthusiasm was also noted by Sylvia Amito’elau, Educational Technology Designer in the Division of Military Education, Corporate Training & Business Development at Coastline. “I was impressed with the faculty that attended, and their excitement to see how they can improve their courses,” she said. “And I came away with a list of resources to help me improve the quality of courses for my college.”

Participants Excited For Possibilities

The Summit was organized because faculty and colleges that submitted courses to be reviewed for inclusion in the Exchange said they wanted help with implementation, verification, ideas and suggestions for improving their courses, said Anna Stirling, @ONE Educational Project Coordinator.

“The enthusiasm in the room on both days with faculty and staff from across the colleges was just amazing,” Stirling said. “Participants were truly excited about pursuing quality of distance education, improving their courses and looking for ways they can use the rubric if they want their courses to be part of the OEI. It’s exciting to see people so enthusiastic about the quality of distance education.”

Course-Review Training Open To All CCC Individuals

Initial training for Peer Online Course Reviewers was held last October, providing an in-person overview of the rubric. A team of 29 OEI course reviews has thus far evaluated 66 courses.

The course review training is now being opened to individuals who want to learn more about the rubric to help prepare courses at their local colleges but are not necessarily interested in serving as official OEI reviewers, according to Michelle Pilati, OEI Professional Development Work Group Director.

@ONE will hold full-day workshops, titled “Applying the OEI Course Design Rubric to Your Online Classes,” open to all interested CCC faculty and staff. The first three trainings will be held March 27 at Foothill College, May 1 at Cerritos College, and May 15 at Mt. San Antonio College. All are one-day no-cost events. Seats are limited, so apply early. An application to participate can be accessed at

While many details are still being figured out, it’s clear that OEI pilot participants are excited about the possibilities of what can be achieved.

“I know that this is a work in progress and I realize that OEI isn’t able to answer all of our questions just yet,” noted Coastline’s Amito’elau, “but I am very confident that the people on this project have the skills and the talents needed to make this a great success.”


Crista Souza is a CCC TechEDge News Contributing Editor.