CVC Regional Center Helps Los Angeles Area Colleges Go Online
The Greater Los Angeles Regional Center for the California Virtual Campus was one of five centers funded by the California Community Colleges Chancellors Office in 1999 to help expand technology-mediated instruction in the community colleges. Rio Hondo College, one of the leading providers of online courses in California, was awarded the five-year $2.8 million grant to develop the Center for the Los Angeles areas 25 colleges.
The other centers established were the Bay Area Regional Center at DeAnza College, the Orange/San Diego Regional Center at Coastline College, and the Statewide/Rural Regional Center at Cerro Coso College. There was also a Staff Development Center awarded to El Camino and Santa Monica Colleges. Since each region has unique needs and characteristics, each Regional Center has created its own distinct program to promote distance education in its area.
Within the broad outlines of the RFA, Rio Hondo set three primary goals for the Greater Los Angeles Regional Center:
The Greater Los Angeles Region extends from Ventura County through nearly all of Los Angeles County and out to Riverside County. The enormity of the area (350,000 community college students), its diversity, and the different levels of technological integration at the regions colleges created significant challenges for Rio Hondo in achieving its three goals. It was decided early on that the first step had to be a study of the needs of the area. Rio Hondo conducted five regional meetings to ask colleges three basic questions:
Based on the results of the meetings and an needs analysis survey distributed over the Web, five basic activities were created for the first year.
First, the Center needed to provide the infrastructure necessary for all colleges to develop and deliver online instruction more efficiently and at a lower cost. To do this, Rio Hondo moved the Regional Centers servers to a "co-location", a commercial facility that provides 24/7 maintenance and faster Internet access. All area colleges can place their online courses on these servers at no cost. The Regional Center also provides licensing for two course management software systems, TopClass and WebCT. The Center has a Web site (www.cvc2.org) that offers a host of resources and services to online faculty.
Second, administrators and faculty leaders involved in distance learning needed to be provided with the skills necessary to develop this very different mode of learning. The Regional Center contracted with the nations leading expert in this area, the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (a branch of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education), to offer a special version of its acclaimed "Management of Distance Education Institute."
A three-day Institute was conducted at the UCLA Conference Center at Lake Arrowhead last December for 56 administrators, faculty, and staff from area colleges. Presenters include representatives of successful programs from Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Texas provide insights in sessions ranging from "Getting Started on a Shoestring", to "Online Student Services", to "Copyright in a Digital Age." Due to the very positive response to the Institute, it will be repeated again next year.
The third major activity of the Los Angeles Regional Center was to hold training workshops. During the fall semester, four day-long workshops were held at the Regional Center: Fundamentals of Web Design, Online Instructional Design, Making Your Web site Accessible, and Administering Web Servers. These are being repeated in the spring semester. The Center will begin holding workshops at area campuses this semester.
In addition, the Regional Center, in collaboration with the Staff Development Center and San Diego City College, put together a two-day workshop on the WebCT and Blackboard course management software programs.
Another major activity will be the Publishers Expo on March 23 on the Rio Hondo College campus. This will be an exhibit of Web-supported material of nearly 20 textbook publishers and other content providers. More three hundred instructors from area colleges are expected to attend.
A fourth activity of the Los Angeles Regional Center is what we call the "Jump Start Team." This is a service we offer to colleges that are just getting started in online education. Center staff meets with development teams from local colleges, assesses institutional infrastructure, helps with strategic planning, and provides training.
The last major activity of the Center is to create Mentors who will help instructors with the pedagogical issues involved in moving courses from the classroom to the Internet. Mentors are discipline-specific, with math/science, social science, and English being the first ones developed. More disciplines will be added next year.
The services the Los Angeles Regional Center offers will change as the area colleges expand their online programs.