Distance Learning in California Community Colleges


The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges held its 31st Spring Plenary Session in San Francisco on April 15-17. Many breakout sessions dealt with the topic of distance learning. It is clear that this is a critical area that must be given high priority. Following is a summary of some of the sessions dealing with this very important topic.

"@ONE - Using E-mail and the Web: Training Courses for Your Campus"; presented by Ian Walton, Roberta Baber, Ann Koda, and Dan Mitchell: @ONE is an online network created by and for California community college educators. The @ONE website (http://one.fhda.edu/) offers a location where faculty can share experiences, share resources, search related news stories, obtain training, and find out how technology can be used to enrich learning. The Academic Senate and @ONE conducted a Technology Summer Training Institute at CSU, Monterey Bay, June 13-18, 1999. Visit http://www.academicsenate. cc.ca.us/TechInstitute/thedaily. html for highlights of the Institute.

"Academic Freedom, Privacy, Copyright, and Fair Use in a Technological World"; presented by Janis Perry, Elton Hall, Hoke Simpson, and Ian Walton: The Educational Policies Committee has drafted a paper entitled "Academic Freedom, Privacy, Copyright, and Fair Use in a Technological World." This is an issue that is being hotly debated on many campuses around the state. The paper is currently a work-in-progress, and we should be hearing more about it soon.

How are your campuses handling intellectual property/copyright of online courses? Who owns the courses? Do developing instructors have first right of refusal? These questions were all discussed and should continue to be discussed on your campuses.

"Guidelines for Good Practice: Effective Instructor-Student Contact in Distance Learning"; presented by Ian Walton, Kathy O'Connor, and Beverly Shue: The Technology and the Curriculum Committees of the Academic Senate jointly prepared this paper which presents recommendations on how local curriculum committees should implement the new instructor-student contact regulations. These revised Title 5 Regulations (Section 55376) were adopted by the Board of Governors in July 1998. They read:

...district governing boards shall ensure that:

(a) All approved courses offered as distance education shall include regular effective con-tact between instructor and students, through group or individual meetings, orientation and review sessions, supplemental seminar or study session, field trips, library workshops, telephone contact, correspondence, voice mail, e-mail, or other activities.

(b) All distance education courses shall be delivered consistent with other guidelines issued by the Chancellor pursuant to Section 409 of the Procedures and Standing Orders of the Board of Governors. Regular effective con-tact is an academic and professional matter pursuant to Title 5, Section 53200.

What this means in plain English is that college Curriculum Committees do not have to require that distance learning courses include any face-to-face meetings on campus, even if the course is transferable. Instead, as instructors we must be able to show our Curriculum Committees how we will ensure regular effective contact with our students. This paper, which was up for adoption during the session, gives instructors suggestions for how this can be accomplished.

"Distance Education and Other Senate/Union Joint Issues"; presented by Dennis Smith and Deborah Ludford: This session focused on the fact that many of the issues related to distance learning are clearly joint senate/union issues. It was also clear from this discussion that colleges all over the state are struggling with these issues. The "hot" issues seem to be:

  1. class size (some colleges have 20-30 class size maximums for online courses);
  2. load/compensation;
  3. intellectual property/copyright;
  4. technical support (for faculty and students);
  5. accessibility;
  6. privacy;
  7. reassigned time (some colleges are using TTIP money to fund; some colleges offer 20 percent+ reassigned time for online course devel opment);
  8. instructor training;
  9. course suitability for online delivery;
  10. integrity/quality of course/instruction;
  11. preparation time;
  12. accessibility to student services for online stu dents;
  13. effective instructorstudent contact (this is where quality is pro tected); and
  14. contracting out

The presenters strongly recommended that all colleges form a joint technology committee with senate representatives, union representatives, and administration to discuss and decide upon these issues. They said it is imperative that each campus have language/policy concerning distance learning and that the senate and union must be together on these issues or "everyone loses."

The overall impression following these breakout sessions is that almost all California community colleges are interested in offering online courses, but few have put any policy into effect. Without these policies, many campuses are handling these issues on a case-by-case basis; faculty are forced to "make deals" with management, and this is unacceptable.

Faculty on all campuses need a mechanism whereby they can share their ideas about policy. It has also been suggested that the statewide Academic Senate write up guidelines for individual colleges to use.

Have any policies been implemented on your campus that you would like to share? If so, please forward them to The Rostrum. Working together, we can take the California Community Colleges into the 21st Century.