Volume 3 Issue 10November 1999
Growth of Distance Education and the Role of the Chancellors Office
The following is an edited exerpt from the workplan of the Distance Education Unit at the California Community Colleges Chancellors Office. The entire document can be downloaded here.
Historically, the Chancellors Office role in promoting distance education was limited. This is about to change. The emergence of the California Virtual University (CVU) helped to provide a centralized venue for distance learning course offerings in the community colleges. It provided a common marketing vehicle that the community colleges utilized significantly compared to the other systems participating in the CVU.
Within the first three semesters of operation, the number of community colleges participating in the CVU grew from approximately 30 to over 65, and the number of distance learning courses listed on the CVU Web site grew by over 450 percent. With the advent of the electronic catalog of the California Virtual University, community colleges collectively were able to demonstrate they were major providers of distance education.
The number of distance education course sections offered by California Community Colleges increased by 3 percent from 1996-97 to 1997-98 (source). As a result, the number of students enrolled in distance education courses increased by a corresponding 3 percent during this same period. The growth in the number of students enrolled in distance education courses from 1996-97 to 1997-98 (2,613) accounted for 17 percent of the growth of students in all community college enrollment (15,335) in the same time period (source).
The growth in interest regarding distance learning within the community colleges and the changes in regulations have created an expanded role for the Chancellors Office as an advocate for the system on a number of these issues. If the one-year trend of distance education growth continues at its current rate, the role of distance education becomes key in addressing the overall system growth issues that will be presented by "Tidal Wave II."
Curriculum and Accreditation Issues
Among the issues being discussed are quality assurance for distance education courses and programs, including program assessment issues. Other critical policy areas include student support services at a distance, human and financial resources for training, and distance education program development, governance, and mission in a virtual environment.
California Community Colleges Satellite Network
Distance education staff will work with the Telecommunications Special Project (TSP) California Community Colleges Satellite (CCCSAT) Network. This project will implement a digital satellite network capable of delivering up to ten channels of programming across the state, western region, nation and globe. The CCCSAT Network will enable each of the systems colleges to be content providers to the world. The implementation of CCCSAT will significantly increase the access of students in California to distance education.
Telecommunications Technology Infrastructure Program Collaboration and Technology Plan II
Distance education staff collaborate with telecommunications staff responsible for coordinating the TTIP in the areas of human resources technology training, faculty training, and planning issues for the statewide data network (4CNet) as they relate to distance education (i.e. satellite, video conferencing). The Chancellors Office is working with the GartnerGroup consulting firm to develop a long-term technology plan that focuses on the use of telecommunications and technology in instruction and learning. The "Technology Plan II" will serve as the foundation for future budgetary requests to the Legislature for local campus infrastructure and instruction and learning applications. This work is being conducted via the Telecommunications Technology Advisory Committee (TTAC), and and will be submitted into the Consultation Process and the Board of Governors upon completion.
Assistive Technology for Disabled Students
Among the current activities staff are involved with is the Chancellors Office Task Group on Distance Education Assistive Technology. This initiative is focused on providing accessibility for distance learning to the disabled and to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Staff is working to identify methods of instruction, access needs, and accommodations for disabled students in a virtual environment.
Staff are working with the CVC (California Virtual Campus) staff in the implementation of the regional centers that will provide assistance in developing and expanding the use of Internet-based courses. They are also working with community colleges to promote the development and operation of distance education programs in underserved and rural areas.
Provision of support services for distance students is the next frontier in promoting successful distance learning programs. The issues are extensive in addressing student access to computers, access to financial aid services, admission, counseling, assessment, orientation, tutoring, joint community college/K-12 partnerships in adult education, developing distance learning as a means of reducing time-to-degree/transfer, negotiating transfer and articulation of course agreements, providing basic skills and ESL courses and non-credit education at a distance.
The financing of distance education program expansion has emerged as a critical issue. Currently, distance education courses are compensated based on the method of delivery and whether the method is fully interactive or not. Course sections using fully interactive delivery methods are paid at a higher rate. Staff are reviewing Title 5 regulations regarding student attendance accounting and positive attendance issues as they relate to barriers for colleges building out distance education programs. Other related fiscal issues include residency determination for distance education students, and tuition policies, including both inter- and intra-state reciprocity.
*Source: CCC, Chancellors Office MIS 1996-97 and 1997-98 data reports