LRCCD discusses Online Education Initiative

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With the approval of the Online Education Initiative, community college students will be able to enroll in online courses at other campuses. The initiative implemented Canvas, a Common Course Management System at pilot colleges during the spring.

The TechEDge, a California Community Colleges online publication, announced Aug. 5, that the OEI pilot program offers Student Readiness Tutorials that were developed to enable California community colleges to easily add them to their existing online educational environment.

All 113 of the CCC have free use of these tutorials said Professor Gregory Beyrer, the distance learning coordinator at Cosumnes River College.

“The purpose of the OEI is to make it easier for students to complete their associate transfer degrees. That’s our goal,” Beyrer said.

Expectations are high and supporters envision that Canvas will boost the number of students who earn associate degrees then transfer to four-year colleges.

During the summer 2015 semester, the pilot colleges shifted into full launch mode. The success or failure of the CCMS hinges on an Online Course Exchange that is fully operational.

“Thus far, piloting of courses in the Canvas environment has gone very well, with minimal support needed for students or faculty,” said Steve Klein, statewide program director of the OEI.

With Canvas, students may enroll in a course at another community college outside their district and not concern themselves with if the course will be accepted by their home college because through the OCE, acceptance has been agreed upon by community colleges using Canvas.

One of the challenges to the pilot program is how to balance graduation requirements, general educational courses in high demand and courses needed to complete associate transfer degrees.

Registration dates, local enrollment priorities, enrollment limits, placement assessment and residency issues are a few of the operational differences that need to be resolved, Beyrer said.

Courses offered must first be reviewed by the OEI Steering Committee’s workgroup to assure courses meet the minimum quality standards in online education.

The workgroup will evaluate four primary categories: course design, interaction and collaboration, assessment and student support.

Executive Director of the OEI Pat James envisions Canvas being “a nurturing [and] developmental ground” where online students succeed as they would in a traditional classroom learning environment.

“I am passionate about making sure that the same work we do in the face-to-face world at California’s community colleges is done online with our students,” said James.

In September 2014, the Academic Senate of the California Community Colleges reported that another aspect of the OEI is to allow for the professional development of the faculty who teach the online courses.

Enabling faculty to hone their teaching skills in an online educational environment and course design is essential as the program transitions from the pilot phase to more colleges participating.

When the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 850 (Block) August 2014, the OEI took root and began shaping a pilot program which would enable each of the 15 community colleges within 15 different districts to offer one bachelor degree.

But the bachelor degree can’t be a discipline that is offered at the California State University or the University of California, unless this provision is waived by the CSU or UC.

The bachelor degrees concept at the community colleges level has been opposed. The Academic Senate maintains that any proposal of a community college’s bachelor degree should not divert any resources from our primary mission of providing associate degrees.

“Cosumnes River College has chosen not to participate in the bachelor degrees program because of our partnership with CSU and UC,” said Kriste West, CRC public information officer.

Yet, the creation of a CCC bachelor degrees program appears likely as is the Los Rios College District’s decision to replace D2L with Canvas.

At this time, CRC has not adopted Canvas, “but if [CRC] decides to join, the soonest [CRC] will start using Canvas will probably be the summer 2017” semester, Beyrer said.

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