Thursday, April 17, 2014

CCC To Help More Students Earn Degrees


With support from the California legislature and Governor's Office, the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office will expand online education programs to help more students earn degrees.

Today, California's 112 community colleges enroll more than 2 million students. About one third of these students—more than 620,000—are enrolled in at least one online course.

These students take online courses primarily because of their schedules. Most hold down jobs and can’t easily drive to campus and sit in a classroom on a specific day and time.

More than half of the state’s community colleges offer online courses and programs, and the majority that currently don’t are moving toward launching online courses and programs in the near future.

Recently the Governor’s Office allocated $57 million over 55 months to finance additional support for these programs. The reason behind its support is not merely the convenience of busy students, nor even technology leadership, but economic necessity: California’s future depends on it.

Not Enough College Completers
California’s community college system is the largest in the country, and possibly the world. Yet, not enough Californians are earning an associate’s degree, certificate or bachelor’s degree, any of which would increase their odds of finding livable-wage jobs and subsequently support the state’s economy and overall workforce needs.

“For every dollar California invests in students who graduate from college, it will receive a net return on investment of $4.50,” according to Governor Jerry Brown's Proposed 2014-15 State Budget for the California Community Colleges.

The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that by 2025 there will be a shortage of 1 million degree or certificate holders needed to support the state’s workforce. Add in large numbers of expected baby boomer retirements on the near horizon, and the future of California’s economy and workforce needs shows negative growth.

3 Statewide Education Initiatives Backed
The Governor’s Office and the CCC Chancellor’s Office have set out to change all this by supporting and working diligently on three primary initiatives that are geared specifically toward boosting community college completion rates through the enhancement and increased offering of flexible online education courses and programs: the Common Assessment Initiative, the Education Planning Initiative and the Online Education Initiative.
  • The Online Education Initiative (OEI) will work to dramatically increase the number of California Community Colleges students who obtain associate degrees and transfer to four-year colleges each year by providing online courses and services within a statewide CCC Online Education Ecosystem. It is being managed by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District and the California Community Colleges Technology Center at Butte-Glenn Community College District.
  • The Common Assessment Initiative (CAI) is about creating test preparation, test delivery, test administration, data collection and course placement guidance. It will use centralized and integrated technology solutions to support assessment and placement. This common assessment system is being developed to reduce remediation rates and provide statewide efficiencies for the placement process. The CCC Technology Center at Butte-Glenn Community College District, in partnership with San Joaquin Delta College, Saddleback Community College, the California Partnership for Achieving Student Success and the Academic Senate, will develop a comprehensive, common assessment system containing test preparation, delivery and administration; data collection and placement guidance; and research.
  • The Education Planning Initiative (EPI) will deliver a systemwide portal for student services and education planning that customizes information and activities according to each student’s needs, and proactively follows up with them through completion of activities to help keep them on track.  Coordinated by the CCC Technology Center at Butte-Glenn Community College District, the EPI, in short, is a concerted effort to help students make more informed choices concerning their educational goals by providing them with access to information in a streamlined and ordered fashion that is presented in the context of their individual needs and where they are in the matriculation and education processes.
Details of the OEI and its CAI and EPI partners were recently provided at a Town Hall meeting held at the Campus Technology Forum in Long Beach.

Recent Meeting Outlines Expectations
Members of an OEI 10-member launch team gave informative presentations at the Town Hall. Joe Moreau, the OEI’s co-executive sponsor, explained that the CAI, EPI and OEI, combined, will be a comprehensive program with a strong focus on helping students complete an associate degree for transfer (ADT), as well as other degree and certificate programs, more efficiently. The comprehensiveness of these three initiatives takes into account incorporating a large number of new and/or enhanced products, services and technological improvements to an already robust online education statewide community comprised of many partners and institutions located throughout the state.

All this will be developed under the guidance of a recently appointed 28-member steering committee comprised of representatives, who are mostly faculty members, from different California community colleges.

“Some of the main components of the OEI are to essentially establish a consortium and a governance model for how colleges can come together, and collaborate and cooperate with each other on how we might expand capacity for online instruction,” Moreau said. “The grant also has an emphasis on making sure we are doing things that recognize the specific needs of under-represented and under-served populations of students and making sure that we can close the achievement gap between all student demographic groups.”

Co-Executive Sponsor Tim Calhoon added that these initiatives will help students make informed choices about their educational pursuits and goals by drawing from and augmenting a good number of established programs and services that are currently supported by the Chancellor’s Office. These include the development of a general-purpose testing platform that can deliver math, English and ESL tests; the creation of a one-stop, systemwide portal where current and prospective students can easily find and take advantage of the numerous resources and services available to them when applying for admissions and taking online courses; the construction of a new education planning system that will more efficiently handle articulation, transfer and transcript processing statewide and include a common course description and student identifier system; developing a federated student identity platform with single sign-on capabilities; continuing to boost help-desk and an on-demand call center student support features and functions; and much more.

“We know that students need structured pathways to follow to matriculate and be successful in college,” Calhoon said.

More Products And Services To Come

Anita Crawley, Chief Student Services Officer, Online Education Initiative

Several other OEI Launch Team members outlined a number of additional products and services that California students and educators can expect to see from these initiatives. Ric Matthews, OEI’s chief academic affairs officer, noted that new credit-by-exam methods and procedures will be created for students to earn bona-fide credit for their past work experiences. In addition, new test proctoring processes will enable better validation of students who might take tests for credit.

“We intend to develop a broader tool box,” Matthews said. “We are looking at better ways to deliver the things that we think are important.”

Anita Crawley, OEI chief student services officer, talked about the many efforts and plans that fall under the area of building out stronger and more numerous student-centered amenities on a statewide basis. Some of these include the creation of a more dynamic student orientation program to online learning, providing enhanced tutoring and counseling services to students, conducting environmental scans across the state of those colleges that currently provide vibrant student services, and much more.

“We are putting student services front and center,” she said. “This grant gives us an opportunity to develop a model that others will follow.”

Patricia James Hanz, OEI chief professional development officer, discussed how professional development services will be a big part of all three initiatives, explaining that experienced and knowledgeable online educators from across the state will be identified and brought in to help train faculty, staff and counselors in numerous areas.

“We are positioned as a system to really do this well,” James Hanz said.

Fred Sherman, OEI chief technology officer, talked about the many and complex technical aspects involved with delivering an efficient and effective online education environment, touching on such elements as supporting a common course management system, creating a consistent experience with a single entry point, adhering to accessibility requirements, implementing universal design and seamless integration, and facilitating best practices in instruction and student services.

Sherman went over a long list of products and services that fall under the OEI technical umbrella, adding that “we are very interested in the assessment of outcomes, and the infrastructure we develop will be concerned with storing the critical data we need to use, collecting it, and transferring it to the various programs and services (throughout the state) that need it.”

OEI Executive Director John Ittelson mentioned that all of these efforts are transparent and open, and that educators throughout the state are encouraged to get involved in the conversation.

For more information, please visit the CAI at, the EPI at and the OEI at

George Lorenzo is a TechEDge contributing writer, and editor and publisher of The SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends & Strategies. George is also president of Lorenzo Associates Inc., a content development service for higher education.

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