Fall 2014 was a very busy time in the California Community College System, with significant work taking place on AB 86 and Adult Education planning, Student Success and Support Program and Student Equity Plan development, the California Open Educational Resources Council, and the statewide technology initiatives—Online Education (OEI), Common Assessment (CAI), and Educational Planning (EPI)—among other programs and initiatives. Spring 2015 promises to be even more intense, with all of the 2014 initiatives continuing and a number of new efforts set to launch. The amount of work may feel overwhelming at times, but all of these projects can have significant impact on the California Community College System and therefore require faculty involvement. The brief descriptions and summaries that follow will help to update local senate leaders and others on various statewide initiatives and projects with information directly from and often in the words of the individuals most involved in or responsible for them.
2014 Technology Initiatives
The three major statewide technology initiatives begun in 2014 continue to make progress. OEI Steering Committee Vice-Chair John Freitas, CAI Co-Chair Craig Rutan, and EPI Co-Chair Cynthia Rico report the following milestones or achievements expected in spring 2015:
- The OEI Steering Committee approved Link-Systems to be awarded the contract for the online tutoring on December 5. Piloting of the OEI tutoring system starts in the spring 2015 term.
- The OEI Common Course Management System (CCMS) Committee will interview finalist vendors in the first week of February and expects to send a recommendation on the vendor for the CCMS to the OEI steering committee on February 6 for approval. Piloting is expected to being in fall 2015, although full-launch pilot colleges may have access to the system sooner.
- CAI will select the vendor or vendors for the system in February. Work to build the common assessment system is expected to begin in March.
- The CAI Professional Development workgroup will begin meeting in April to prepare for pilot college trainings in early fall.
- Portlets for the EPI’s systemwide student services portal are currently under development. The first demo will take place at the end of January 2015.
- The EPI’s Request for Proposals for an online education planning tool and a degree audit system has been sent, with the deadline for responses on January 23, 2015. The process of selecting a vendor will be done immediately after the deadline.
- A vendor to provide online orientation software which will be made available to colleges interested in this feature will be selected in spring 2015.
Community College Bachelor’s Degrees
The Community College Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Program, created by Senate Bill 850 (Block, 2014), is moving forward. Although the ASCCC opposed this bill up until its passage, Academic Senate Resolution 9.04 F14 indicated that the ASCCC should “work with the Chancellor’s Office and local senates to ensure that community college faculty are appropriately represented on all task forces and other bodies, including any local committees, involved with the development and implementation of the community college baccalaureate degree pilot program.” The Academic Senate has therefore continued to consult with the Chancellor’s Office to ensure that any degrees offered through this pilot are developed through existing system processes and are held to strong academic standards.
Applications for inclusion in the pilot have now been submitted and read. Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs Pam Walker explains the process: “The Chancellors Office had 34 completed applications for the BA Pilot Project. We asked colleagues throughout the state to act as evaluators during the holiday break so that each application would be read at least three times. As part of the process, we also have our CSU and UC colleagues reading applications for their insights based on the Senate Bill. Chancellor Harris will review all documentation and will determine the specific number of applications to forward to the BOG by their January meeting.” On January 20, the process described by Vice-Chancellor Walker culminated when the Board of Governors gave provisional approval for fifteen colleges to participate in the pilot. Those colleges will now take part in discussions to define the specific parameters for the degrees. The Academic Senate provided a number of the readers who reviewed the applications, and the Chancellor’s Office has indicated that we will continue to play a significant role in the implementation process for the pilot.
Constance Carroll, Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District and one of the primary proponents of the community college bachelor’s degree, describes the basis for the pilot as follow: “The essential benefit to students is a very important and practical one. It will enable them to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a workforce field where this level degree is now required but which no public university offers. It makes only good educational and economic sense to enable these students to complete a four-year bachelor’s program at a local community college. Community colleges are accessible, offer high-quality instruction in workforce fields where associate degree and certificate programs are already in place; and can accommodate the needs of working students who are not able to matriculate on a full-time basis.”
Although the Academic Senate opposed the creation of the baccalaureate degree pilot at this time, we share Chancellor Carroll’s interest in ensuring accessible, high-quality instruction that will benefit students and our communities. However, much work still remains and many questions must still be answered before any degrees can be approved and offered. Questions regarding funding, degree requirements, general education requirements, minimum qualifications, and others will be addressed in consultation with the colleges that have been chosen for the pilot. The Academic Senate will participate in all of these discussions, and in areas that fall directly under the heading of academic and professional matters, the ASCCC will play a leading role.
Institutional Effectiveness/Technical Assistance Program
Development has now begun on the Chancellor’s Office Technical Assistance Program, housed under the new Institutional Effectiveness Division and funded through a grant for which College of the Canyons will serve as the partner college and fiscal agent. Vice-Chancellor of Institutional Effectiveness Theresa Tena notes that the purpose of the technical assistance program is to “facilitate the development of guidelines and technical assistance tools for districts which flow across instruction, student services, economic and workforce development, and fiscal areas. This effort will reach out to all our districts – those in need and stable districts – to provide a platform to highlight and allow cross pollination of exemplary programs between districts and colleges.”
Diane Van Hook, president of partner college College of the Canyons and chancellor of the Santa Clarita District, describes the technical assistance program as “professional development for colleges” rather than for individuals. She expressed her enthusiasm for professional development by stating, “What an exciting thing to think that by learning, incorporating, changing, adjusting, adapting, and applying new knowledge and acquired competencies that we can become more effective, while redefining and shaping the changes that impact what we can do next. I see the Institutional Effectiveness Initiative as an opportunity for our colleges to do the same.” Chancellor Van Hook notes that as many as one-third of the community college districts across the state have already expressed informal interest in receiving input from the program, demonstrating the need for and importance of the initiative.
An executive committee for the technical assistance grant program and an advisory body to develop the program have been formed, both of them containing significant Academic Senate representation. The ASCCC welcomes the opportunity to work with Vice-Chancellor Tena and with College of the Canyons in what is developing as a very collegial and effective relationship.
Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy
At its November 2014 meeting, the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges commissioned a Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy. This body includes both representatives from constituencies within the community college system and from industry and our communities. According to the Chancellor’s Office Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy website, the goal of the task force is “to increase individual and regional economic competitiveness by providing California’s workforce with relevant skills and quality credentials that match employer needs and fuel a strong economy” (http://doingwhatmatters.cccco.edu/StrongWorkforce.aspx). As aspects of this broad overall goal, multiple important topics and issues may be explored in order to benefit students, local communities, the State of California, and the Community College System. Lynn Shaw, Electrical Technology Professor at Long Beach City College and faculty co-chair of the task force, states, “I hope the task force will fully and authentically engage the varied and diverse voices of CTE faculty. While many people still say ‘CTE or academic,’ I hope the Taskforce will be able to change the narrative to ‘CTE is academic.’”
Because the task force will be working on a short timeline, with its final meeting planned for July 2015, and because half of the task force members will come from outside the system, a broad structure for gathering input and background for the task force has been established. Numerous regional conversations involving community college administration, staff, and faculty have already taken place. Vice Chancellor of Workforce & Economic Development Van Ton-Quinlivan states, “Already, common themes are surfacing through the Regional College Conversations on what makes it hard for our faculty, staff, and administrators to do their good work. The fixes require a comprehensive discussion, and the Task Force brings together the right mix to do just that.”
The Academic Senate has been and will continue to be directly involved in the work of this task force. Four faculty members have been appointed as task force members. In addition to co-chair Lynn Shaw, faculty representatives will include ASCCC Vice-President Julie Bruno, San Diego Mesa College Math Professor and Curriculum Chair Toni Parsons, and Pasadena City College Counselor Lynell Wiggins. The Academic Senate will also be providing further support for the task force process and for the faculty appointees by holding regional meetings specifically intended to gather faculty input and by providing written explanations and documentation regarding such matters as curriculum processes and educational pathways. Finally, the ASCCC Futures Committee will be reconstituted to serve as support and provide input for the faculty appointees to the task force. Wheeler North, ASCCC Treasurer, will act as chair of the Futures Committee, which will also include two part-time CTE faculty members in order to ensure that part-time faculty issues are not overlooked in these important discussions.
The only legislation currently sponsored by the Chancellor’s Office this year concerns concurrent enrollment. Details of this bill have not yet been released. Other bills currently published for the coming legislative cycle include AB 13 (Chavez) on veterans’ exemption from nonresident tuition, SB 42 (Liu) to established a new Commission on Higher Education Performance, and SB 66 (Leyva) to further fund the Career Technical Education Pathways Program started by SB 70 (Scott, 2005) and SB 1070 (Steinberg, 2012). Two different bills involving accreditation coming from community college constituent groups are also expected, as is a bill dealing with full-time faculty hiring in both credit and noncredit programs and part-time faculty equity.
With so many activities, initiatives, and other efforts happening at the same time, faculty leaders and others may find themselves struggling to keep abreast of developments and to stay involved. The current pace of innovation and the constantly increasing workload in California higher education can be exhausting. However, Chancellor Brice Harris emphasizes the importance of the faculty role in all of these discussions in the following statement: “All of us in California community colleges are serving in a time of unprecedented change. The speed and complexity of that change is daunting, and the work involved in supporting that change is tremendous. However, we cannot make significant change to our colleges without adequate faculty involvement, advice, and counsel on every issue. Whether it relates to teaching and learning, accreditation, career technical education, student success, access, adult education or the community college baccalaureate, robust faculty involvement is a necessity.”
Chancellor Harris’ words are important for all of us to remember. While we may often feel frustrated or fatigued by the seemingly constant stream of new demands on our time and energy, our colleges and our students need our involvement and our commitment to participate in all of these efforts. The Academic Senate will continue its work to provide information and resources that encourage and enable faculty involvement at the state and local level in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of the initiatives and projects in which we are engaged and in others that are certain to come.