Skip to Main Content

Online Education Initiative Management Team, left to right: Pat James, Steve Klein, Jory Hadsell, Bonnie Peters, Michelle Pilati and John Makevich

The California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) is working on several fronts to increase support for students, faculty and staff, as it continues to operate in a pilot phase with full implementation on the horizon.

For example, pilots are currently underway in the areas of student readiness and online tutoring services. Through these two projects alone the OEI has already touched about 2,000 students in the spring term, said OEI Chief Academic Officer Jory Hadsell, speaking at the OEI Town Hall held April 8 at the Campus Technology Forum in Long Beach, Calif., and simulcast from Sacramento City College in Sacramento, Calif.

In addition to Hadsell, the Town Hall event featured several other OEI management team members who updated the audience on the initiative’s activities and pilots to date. Relevant discussions focused on a variety of support projects being developed in the areas of student services, academic support, online course offerings and professional development.

OEI Governing Group Set To Expand

Additionally, it was noted that a consortium is being developed that is based on establishing some kind of governing body to allow the 24 OEI pilot colleges to more actively participate in decisions being made within the OEI, said John Makevich, OEI Director of Strategic Planning and Operations.

“Right now a lot of that is being done informally and casually with the eight Full Launch pilot colleges,” Makevich said. However, not all of the 24 pilot colleges are represented on the OEI Steering Committee, so the consortium is intended to give them a seat at the table.

It is expected the group will convene later this year, and will get information from the initial work done by the Full Launch colleges, which are expected to pilot the Canvas-based common course management system (CCMS) starting this fall, and the OEI Course Exchange in early 2016.

Counseling, Proctoring Networks In Development

From the current pilot of Student Readiness modules, data and information is being collected and used to improve the program for the summer term. At that time, the pilot will expand to include the eight Online Tutoring pilot colleges, as well as some Full Launch colleges, said Bonnie Peters, OEI Chief Student Services Officer.

Looking to further expand support resources for students, the Student Readiness group aims to form online counseling networks that would bring a human element to the readiness-assessment experience, Peters said. The networks would consist of trained distance education counselors that know how to utilize the tools and work with students in the OEI environment.

“We’re hoping to provide an accessible and easy-to-use platform where the student can easily make an appointment and meet up with a counselor to get the support they need,” Peters said. “Each year I am hoping that we can add resources and support based on what the students are telling us they need to be successful in online classes.”

The OEI is also working with distance education coordinators and colleges to create a statewide proctoring network that would include an online service, Hadsell added.

It is expected that colleges not part of an OEI pilot would be able to get discounted pricing for online proctoring, just as with the online tutoring component offered through Link-Systems International, Hadsell explained.

“There are a lot of great things happening but they’re often siloed,” he added. “We’re in discussions with the chief librarians to coordinate the services statewide.”

Course Exchange, CCMS Efforts Continue Apace

Providing an update on the OEI Course Exchange, OEI Professional Development Work Group Director Michelle Pilati said 67 courses have been formally reviewed so far, and 20 more are under review. Having opened OEI Course Design Rubric training to participants from all community colleges, Pilati’s team is now looking to modularize the training so that faculty can access the pieces they need to improve their courses.

“We are planning to bring discipline faculty and online together to talk about the instructional challenges, and how they might solve them to improve the online instructional experience,” Pilati said. “Our ultimate goal is to front-load support and make it so there is so much support out there to direct faculty to have a high-quality course.”

A clearinghouse is in the works that would provide a place to store information and model courses, as well as to connect with other faculty members, added OEI Executive Director Pat James.

Meanwhile, contract negotiations are underway with Instructure to create a CCMS based on the Canvas system. OEI Statewide Program Director Steve Klein said contract approval is expected April 22 from the Butte College Board of Trustees, and a signed contract is anticipated by May 1. In the interim, the OEI is proceeding toward CCMS implementation.

“Even as we go through the contract negotiations, we’re moving far down the road, completing professional development planning and working with the pilot colleges,” Klein said.

James clarified that colleges that want to use the Canvas CCMS can do so without participating in the Course Exchange. Additionally, colleges may primarily use a non-Canvas system but offer Exchange courses through the Canvas CCMS.

Editor's note: The language of this story was changed on April 10 and May 6, 2015, to reflect clarifications from OEI staff and participants.

Crista Souza is a CCC TechEDge News Contributing Editor.