Skip to Main Content

A view of the San Diego Bay from the San Diego Marquis & Marina Hotel, site of the Online Teaching Conference 2016Since 2000, I have been attending the annual Online Teaching Conference organized by the California Community Colleges (CCC). The conference started small and was face-to-face, went through a completely virtual period from 2004-2005, then returned in a hybrid format with many of its face-to-face sessions being webcast.

It has steadily grown from about 200 face-to-face participants to more than 850 attendees in San Diego this year. I think this was not only the biggest conference we’ve had, but also the best.

On day one we all were treated to a keynote by a well known educator, and because of a variety of corporate restrictions, we cannot publish who that was—just know he was amazing! When you have a keynote that becomes the topic of the rest of the conference, you know you are off to a good start.

Keynote Highlights

A big takeaway from that starting presentation was how we have to really step up as educators to embrace the changes that technology brings to our profession. A comparison was made to medical practice. If doctors practiced medicine today with the tools and skills they had 25 years ago—that is, not having improved as a result of research and development—they would be committing medical malpractice.

For example, surgeries that were lengthy, costly and hard to recover from are now being done with advanced technology with little to no recovery time. Research and technology have changed the face of medicine. So, why doesn’t the same hold true for teaching? If we are teaching now with only the skills and tools we had even 10 years ago, we could be considered as committing teaching malpractice.

Think about it. Are you relying mainly on teaching methods that have been unchanged for decades? Could you do a better job for your students by using new tools and methods?

The other takeaway from that keynote, for me, is this quote by Douglas Adams that really struck a chord for me and for many in attendance. We so often are skeptical of new technologies without really investing in review and trial that could improve the educational experience and success of our students and just maybe, at the same time, renew our interest and excitement about what we are teaching. Here’s the quote mentioned in the keynote:

“I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that's invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary, and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt (2002), Random House LLC, p. 111

CCC Interim Chancellor Erik Skinner speaks at the Online Teaching Conference 2016.Interim Chancellor Supports OEI

On day two we were treated to a message from the Interim Chancellor for the CCC’s, Erik Skinner. Chancellor Skinner was amazing, too. I was given the distinct honor of introducing him to the general session and I thanked him for what he has done for our system over the years.

He joined the Chancellor’s Office in 2007, when he was appointed Vice Chancellor for College Finance and Facilities Planning, and since 2013 has served as the Deputy Chancellor. While he has done so much work with our system, his contribution to the development of online education cannot be understated!

In his address, Chancellor Skinner talked about the need to increase access to education for all students in the state, about providing an infrastructure that can withstand any downturn in an economic cycle, and about innovation driving systemic progress going forward.

Chancellor Skinner has been a supporter of the OEI from the beginning. His presence at steering committee meetings, meetings with Governor Brown’s staff and the Department of Finance, and his open availability for consult with us, has given us the confidence we need to do our work. His public support, and more importantly, his understanding of the work we are doing are critical to our ability to succeed. His presence at the conference and his presentation in the general session will inspire us to keep up the pace of the work, and we are very grateful for that.

Presentations Generate Excitement

Finally, the rich content provided by presenters from all sectors of the state and the support of our sponsors, gave the attendees more than their money’s worth of information about teaching and learning in the online environment. There was a level of excitement that for all who attended, whether to present or participate, was inspirational.

Pat James with winners of $100 off of Disneyland tickets for next year's Online Teaching ConferenceThe conference will convene next June in Anaheim and we hope to see everyone there again!

Learning Canvas Information

One of the reasons we chose Canvas for the common course management system for the CCC is because it is quite easy to use. Getting started, however, can seem like a daunting task. We have some great resources on our web pages under Faculty Resources. Please explore them all! There are videos for each function, step-by-step instructions by function, handbooks for faculty and students, self-paced courses, and facilitated courses.

We also have a Facebook page ( and a Twitter feed (@CCCoei). Check the icons on the upper right corner of any page on our website to go to them.

OEI Exchange Timeline Shifts

As the fall term began to loom over us, we determined that we would better serve both the colleges and students if we shifted the first use of the exchange registration mechanism from August to October.

The building of the “college adaptor,” development of the user interfaces—both admin (for input of courses) and student-facing (for finding and registering in courses)—and training for both, as well as getting the pilot college technology implementations accomplished, are all incredibly complicated activities that are being done for the first time. By making the two-month shift, we will be able to launch in a full registration cycle and fully pilot the exchange technology. The registration shift will also allow for us to reach a greater number of students able to participate in the process.

Meanwhile, none of the development and implementation activities are slowing down. Our intent is to have students participating live in the registration systems beginning in October for classes starting in Winter/Spring 2017. There is no adjustment to the implementation timeline and the work is continuing so that the entrance of the other 16 pilot colleges into the exchange is on schedule.

The college adaptor is the technical component that will allow for transfer of information across different student information systems and will enable activities to operate smoothly for the Common Assessment Initiative work as well as our own. Stay tuned!

Over 85 Colleges Adopt Canvas

Canvas adoption continues to increase throughout our system as over 85 colleges have completed applications, and another group of about 10 have decided to adopt but have not yet submitted applications. It’s amazing what we are doing as a system to support our students across the state and I look forward to the community that is developed through this process.

If your college has adopted Canvas and you would like to be part of the community of educators discussing effective practices and making functionality additions or adjustments to the Canvas system, you can join the CCC Canvas Community at

Save the date for the Online Teaching Conference 2017Local College Use Of Funds

I was asked to provide a bit of a reminder about our suggestion to colleges that as the resources provided and negotiated for by the OEI result in lower online program costs to colleges, the college decision makers are strongly encouraged to return savings dollars to Distance Education programs locally. The Academic Senate for CCC passed a resolution earlier this year recommending that savings be dedicated to professional development for faculty. We whole-heartedly agree with that idea and reiterate our recommendation that savings in online program costs that are a result of OEI resources and negotiated vendor pricing, be put back into local programs, particularly for professional development and assistance with accessibility for disabled students.


Pat James is Executive Director of the
California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative