Technology Plan - Distance Education
According to California Community Colleges Distance Education Regulations and Guidelines, distance education is defined as “instruction in which the instructor and student are separated by distance and interact through the assistance of communication technology” (www.cccco.edu/SystemOffice/Divisions/AcademicAffairs/DistanceEducation/RegulationsandGuidelines/tabid/767/Default.aspx). Chabot now offers numerous distance education courses to meet rising demand from students.
To jump-start a significant increase in online course development, the DE curriculum committee streamlined the course review and approval process and implemented a faculty incentive for teaching online. The distance education program is continuing its first program review, which began in 2007. The Distance Education Committee (now called the Committee On Online Learning) created ambitious goals in terms of learning about our current and potential online students and their needs, improving student success and retention, motivating and providing support to faculty to teach online, and tackling the question of student learning outcomes in online vs. on-campus courses. Through the continuous growth in courses using Blackboard, online learning is becoming more prevalent.
In the effort to assist current and prospective DE students, a website was created to provide more information about online and hybrid courses. The site (/online) includes information regarding the differences between online classes and hybrid classes, any on-campus class meetings of online courses, technology requirements for online students, and an information page where instructors can provide customized information about their online courses.
During the first few weeks of Spring 08 semester, DE faculty and the Chabot Web Services (CWS) staff offered an orientation to online learning for all Chabot online students. The nine orientation sessions provided Blackboard log-in instructions and help, an overview of the Blackboard course management system, and tips on netiquette, time management, and study skills for the online student. Students who struggle with logging in or with using required Blackboard tools are far more likely to drop or to fail, and these meetings were intended to improve both student retention and success rates.
With the support of a Basic Skills grant, an interactive online tutorial has been created to provide instruction in library research for our online students. To quote from the grant proposal: “The tutorial covers techniques in selecting a topic, searching the library catalog, finding articles in databases, searching and evaluating the Distance Education Committee sites, and properly citing sources. In addition, there will be an assessment tool—a test implemented in Blackboard on
14 basic information skills that would refer back to the skills mentioned in Searchpath—that instructors can use to determine if students have online research know how for their courses. Students would then have the basic skills necessary to perform a research assignment, effectively using library resources in an online format.”.” This tutorial was piloted in the Fall 07 semester prior to full implementation in Spring 08.
A new film about our online students entitled “Going the Distance” was completed in early fall of 2007. It explores why students take online courses, how they view the workload and participation as compared to traditional campus courses, how they interact with instructors, and what they believe it takes to succeed in an online course. The Distance Education Committee has offered several forums to share this video, which was developed by our “Reading Between the Lines” student filmmakers.
In addition to these student-focused efforts, the Distance Education Committee also develops programs for those considering teaching online, such as an online tutorial—introduced in December 2007—that guides faculty through the process of developing an effective DE course. It’s the first of a projected series of courses for faculty that will enable them to develop a proposal, learn online teaching pedagogy, and build a course in Blackboard. The Distance Education Committee is also exploring potential Blackboard upgrades and other new technologies for online teaching.
The major focus of the DE Committee so far has been to help online students succeed. The committee’s longer-term goal is to improve the quality and scope of distance education offerings to meet student demand. Online courses enhance accessibility to education for many students and helps students attain their educational goals in a more flexible learning modality. The Distance Education Committee also plans to develop a series of mini-modules that DE faculty can insert into their online courses as they see fit, including library research skills, online study skills, Blackboard tutorials, and more. The following focal points were adopted as the goals of Chabot College’s Distance Education Committee to help promote and support a future Distance Education Program.
- Provide online developmental opportunities and resources for Chabot College staff
- Develop programs for equitable compensation and support for those interested in development of Distance Education technologies
In support of these goals, the Distance Education Committee plans to:
- Work with faculty to develop, approve, and offer at least 25 new, high-quality online courses (or new sections of existing online courses) each year. This will require:
- An ongoing incentive plan to motivate faculty to make the significant upfront investment of time to develop new online courses.
- Availability of the hardware and software necessary for faculty to teach online.
- Availability of training for new online faculty to develop online teaching skills, and for current online faculty to continue to build their skills.
- Training for all faculty in Blackboard, as the Distance Education Committee believe this is an “on-ramp” to stimulating interest in teaching online.
- Recognition of the significant role that adjunct faculty are playing in the development of our online offerings, via stipends for adjuncts to complete Blackboard training, and to join the DE Committee.
- Develop a series of mini-modules that DE faculty can insert into their online courses as they see fit, covering library research skills, online study skills, Blackboard tutorials, and similar topics.
- Develop an online orientation course for students and provide extended Blackboard support hours to enhance student retention and success.
- Complete an analysis of the gaps the Distance Education Committee has to close in order to offer our most popular degrees and certificates fully online. Students can already earn a “transfer oriented” AA degree online at Foothill, and Las Positas has this as a stated near-term goal.
- Develop an overall distance education strategic plan including key initiatives to make the college fully accessible to online students (tutoring, counseling, financial aid, bookstore, library, etc.).
- Work with faculty and staff to ensure smooth transitions to upgraded versions of Blackboard.
With upcoming changes and additions in Distance Education, we are focused on the expansion of student support. While students have additional options for online courses, they may be lacking in the foundation needed for success in a distance education course. This need sparked the expansion of Blackboard student support services for the initial weeks of the term. However, the growing number of distance education courses demands additional permanent support. We hope to address this need with the addition of full-time student support personnel who can better
address the on-campus and resource needs for the growing population of distance education students.