Raths, D. (2014) California Community Colleges Joining Forces for Online Success Campus Technology February 25
Assisted by a $57 million grant from the Governor of California, the Online Education Initiative aims to develop an integrated system for online learning for the 112 Community Colleges in the state.
The community colleges in the state have a long record of online learning, with 41,000 online sections for 620,000 students. However, overall completion rates are low, each of the 72 community college districts offers its own online courses, and there are more than 10 different learning management systems in use.
The proposal involves the following:
- dramatically increasing the number of students who obtain associate degrees and transfer to four-year colleges
- improving course/program completion rates
- program and curriculum development leadership from the Foothill-De Anza Community College District (FHDA)
- technology leadership from Butte-Glenn Community College District
- sharing of resources (programs and technology)
- a new, specifically designed course management system/portal available for use by all colleges (to be built through an RFP process)
- a repository of model course content to be shared/adapted by faculty
- a full suite of services to support online learners (e.g. 24/7 help desk)
- ‘actional’ learning analytics for faculty
- voluntary participation by each of the colleges
In several jurisdictions colleges or university campuses share online courses within a single system, such as the University of Florida Online. OntarioLearn is a collaboration between Ontario community colleges for sharing courses, but doesn’t go as far as the California proposal in terms of integrating technology and support services.
I expect to see more proposals like the Californian one across other jurisdictions in North America. It doesn’t make sense for 112 relatively small institutions to each design and deliver almost identical courses or programs, and each purchase and manage their own LMS. There should be not only major economies of scale, but an increase in quality in the courses and services, by pooling resources and ensuring common quality standards in the design and delivery of online learning..
The question is whether the colleges will voluntarily join in this initiative. ‘We intend to make it so good that it is a no-brainer to participate‘, says Linda Thor, chancellor of FHDA. Let’s hope that’s the case. It will be interesting to see how successful this initiative turns out to be.