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California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeWelcome to the first of what I hope will be many blog posts addressed to those of you interested in the status of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI), and about Distance Education in general.


On Monday, July 7, the Board of Trustees for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District approved my taking the role of Executive Director. OK, so it became official and, as some of you may say, “got real” as I stood in the boardroom to join in the Pledge of Allegiance. I had an emotional reaction to the experience that I can only describe as coming from my connection and devotion to the students of our colleges.

I became involved in online learning statewide in 1999, when my then-Vice President of Instruction asked me to be the California Virtual Campus (CVC) mentor. As a multimedia instructor, I guess I was the logical candidate! My purpose became really clear in a very short period of time. I wanted to be sure that what we provide for the students of California in our face-to-face environment is not lost in our online efforts. I owe my good life to the CCC, and know that we change and save many lives in our work. My philosophy as an educator was formed when working for a principal (Wayne Padover) in Lake County. He said: “Make every decision work for what’s best for students and you’ll do well in education.”

I wanted to keep a blog so that you all are kept up to date with the goings-on regarding the OEI, and to enable you to give feedback and comments in this forum. Sitting in the Executive Director’s seat is not easy! This is a gigantic job with a gigantic responsibility and I’d like to keep you informed about not only what we are doing, but what it’s like for me to be doing this work right now!

I am incredibly honored to be leading this effort. In the first two weeks of my work as ED, we took stock in our accomplishments and created a second-year work plan charting our course for the future. Since the launch team was formed in December 2013, it has been working to pull the multitude of pieces of this project together. (To read the goals, visit

Some of the accomplishments thus far include:

  • Established a Steering Committee and task specific work groups.
  • Received interest applications from 58 of the 112 colleges in the system!
  • Developed, revised and are currently implementing a process for selecting colleges to be a pilot group who will test a systemwide course management system, matriculation processes, course quality activities, and student support services. (Announcement date: July 31, 2014)
  • Developed and released an RFI for a common course management system (CCMS).
  • Completed focus work for the CCMS in the DE Coordinators’ Retreat (June 14).
  • Developed a list of Academic Degree for Transfer (ADT) courses to be the first to be offered in a statewide course exchange program.
  • Created a professional development roadmap with the initial draft of course design standards and a process for reviewing courses for the pilot.
  • Began work on a “readiness” course/assessment for online students.
  • Created an RFP process for tutoring resources for online students.
  • Hired an Executive Director and a number of project managers in permanent roles.
  • Began work on revising and reinvigorating the CVC course catalog.
  • Began work on infrastructure that will support an online student portal.
  • Will have hired three new staff members to replace the Launch team by Aug. 5.

"Dream Big", Bonnie Edwards, CCCCOThere’s not a day that goes by that all of us working on this don’t wish it was moving faster. However, quick and quality don’t always go hand in hand. This is a very complex project with more moving pieces than you might imagine. When you get down to it, the reciprocity issues that have to be solved across the state alone are daunting! I keep thinking it should be easier but, the truth is, this project will take a while to coalesce and become something amazing. Some would say this project is impossible, but I like the idea that things that are impossible just take a little longer to complete!

The questions that we need to answer are not simple ones and, of course, everyone has an opinion. We welcome ideas and opinions, particularly if they are productive and based on what’s good for students. I truly believe we are the colleges to do this work well and, given some patience, we will.

I hope to hear from you!


P.S.: Check out the Annual Meeting of WCET to be hosted in Portland in November. It’s one of the best conferences for learning about trends in DE and policy issues. I’ll be there!

Pat James is Executive Director of the
California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI).