Online Education Initiative to be adopted by CRC

The Online Education Initiative, a collaborative effort among California Community Colleges to increase student access to and success in online courses, was reviewed at an Academic Senate Meeting on Oct. 13, allowing the school to move forward in adopting the OEI Exchange.

The initiative is comprised of high quality online courses and providing various online and technological resources for students.

There are also multiple ways in which colleges can participate in the OEI, such as taking advantage of OEI resources, Canvas as a course management system and the Course Exchange aspect of the initiative (the ability to register in online courses from other participating colleges).

“There will be two sets of online students in the state of California: those who have matriculated into colleges that are part of the OEI exchange, and those who suffer in ignorance,” said Distance Education Coordinator Greg Beyrer.

Cosumnes River College has recently made the transition from Desire2Learn to Canvas as the designated course-hosting software in order to more easily make the transition into the OEI Course Exchange, which is the next item on advocates’ agendas.

Beyrer proposed OEI resolutions to an Academic Senate Meeting held on Oct. 13, asking that the Academic Senate “assert its intent that the college participate in the Course Exchange as soon as possible” and that the academic senate president “work with the college president to jointly appoint a task force to prepare the college for participation in the Course Exchange,” according to an Academic Senate document.

Through a discussion about the proposed resolutions, some faculty expressed their concerns with the Course Exchange and exposed some of the challenges that online classes present.

Chair of the Academic Integrity Committee David Weinshilboum said that compared to in-person classes, some studies and statistics have shown that online courses may actually be detrimental to a student’s learning and academic success.

“Online success rates are about 10 percent lower across CCCs, and that runs true at CRC, so I think that’s something we should consider with our goal of student success,” Weinshilboum said, referencing data provided by the Public Policy Institute of California.

According to a handout that included additional statistics and research, increased distance education could be a disadvantage for women, minorities and first-time freshmen.

Beyrer said that one of the requirements of the OEI Course Exchange is that, as soon as possible, students are presented with a thorough self-assessment that questions characteristics  such as their time management skills in order to evaluate their ability to succeed in an online course.

He added that for those students with learning styles compatible with online courses, they are succeeding at a higher rate because the courses are well designed, well supported and well prepared.

Sociology Professor Paul Zisk said that while the online classes can be beneficial in some instances, there are still problems that might arise.

“If the course is unavailable at CRC for whatever reason, then the student takes the course’s online component, of course that would enhance the probability of completing their program in an accelerated and timely manner,” Zisk said. “However, if the course is available at CRC, and then they take the course through OEI, then it does not enhance their probability.”

Beyrer explained that there are many different reasons that students choose to take online courses as opposed to their in-person counterparts, including work obligations and caring for children.

“We trust that the students who are matriculated (enrolled) at the home college will turn to the exchange courses as a normal part of their selection,” Beyrer said.