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California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeHello! I wanted to fill you in on where we are and say farewell as the Executive Director of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI). The last three years have gone by so quickly and we have accomplished a lot.

I’ve been called “the Counter” in recent days because I track (and I am amazed about) how many colleges have committed to adopting one learning management system, Canvas. As of this writing, the count is 106 (of 115 campuses, including Compton Center and North Orange Adult). I keep telling anyone who will listen because it’s past time for our remarkable system to put its energies together for the students of California as a whole group of incredible and independent colleges.

It should not be lost on anyone that the distance educators in our community are the leaders who are finally bringing together our 113 colleges. These DE innovators have never given up on providing access for students. We defended the value of the teaching method for years in curriculum committee meetings, in faculty meetings, in professional development activities, in budget committee meetings, to the individual boards of governors, and in the hallways of our colleges since the 1990s. We kept learning and making the method better, until now we have fully resourced online courses that consistently deliver high-quality education to the students of California who can’t complete their educational goals without us. The expansion of online educational environments is the expansion of education for so many Californians.

Exchange Update

Here we are at the point of integrating the digital elements of the OEI Course Exchange so that registration can begin. With every step we learn something we could not have anticipated. Each of the colleges has a unique set of requirements based on eight different ways to do things. We knew that, but when you get into the details of implementing multiple points or integration into an unknown system configuration, you find things that must be adjusted, worked around or completely redesigned.

I am astonished at how much has been done and what continues to be developed by the minute. The big lesson for us has been that each college will enter into the exchange activity at their own pace based on their system needs and customizations that have evolved independently over the years. We had envisioned just flipping a switch and, viola, the exchange could begin on such and such a date. This has not been the case, however.

You Can’t Rush Success

It is so good that we are beginning with a small test among eight very different colleges (in terms of size, demographics, student information systems, etc.). We are learning and adapting all the time, and so are the colleges. Each of the eight will come into live operation when they have completed a series of implementation tasks and tests. As Steve Klein (channeling Orson Welles) said, “We shall sell no wine before its time.” Being careful not to risk student registration, we are taking our time and making sure that things are done correctly.

Is that taking longer? You bet it is. Are we worried? No. We are working. Colleges will be testing with students in courses in spring, but there is no one date to turn on the switch. We are confident that by the time Fall 2017 rolls around there will a consensus around a variety of “switch” dates for at least 20 pilot colleges.

Meanwhile, we are learning so much, which is really the goal of a “pilot” situation. We will keep you up to date on the progress of this incredibly ambitious effort. Currently, four colleges are really close to going live and are completing testing processes. The other four are in various stages of testing and have determined their “switch” dates as closely as possible. I know you will stay tuned!

Farewell, And Thank You

At this time, I would like to thank all of the faculty and the representatives for their continued efforts in the development of the exchange. Your enthusiasm, optimism and dedication to making it work, will result in increased access for our students and I applaud you mightily!

I’d like to thank all of the college staff who have participated in this initiative, the CCC Chancellor’s Office folks, Academic Senate leadership, the Foundation for CCC, and the staff at the CCC Technology Center at Butte College. I also want to thank my wonderful team at the Foothill-De Anza Community College District (FHDA), my boss Joe Moreau, the FHDA board of trustees, and Chancellor Judy Miner as well as former Chancellor Linda Thor for their continued faith in me. I also want to thank the variety of amazing vendors we have partnered with over these years.

Think about what the future can be with us all engaged in doing what works for students.

As for you all, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director. I will be forever grateful.


Pat James is Executive Director of
the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative