A few of our past College Matters articles discussed how magnificently our CR faculty modified our instruction to “virtual classrooms” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of meeting with peers and instructors on campus in classrooms, students attended Zoom class sessions, watched video lectures, and participated in online discussions to master their disciplines.
As we transition out of the pandemic phase of COVID-19 and begin to return to normal operations, we know that some students will welcome the opportunity to learn in person again. We also know that many students have organized their work and family lives around the flexibility online education offers and will want to continue to take courses virtually. Therefore, we anticipate a demand for online education that is greater than what we experienced pre-pandemic. This is the case not only for College of the Redwoods but also for colleges across the state and country.
The good news is that the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (the agency that provides oversight of California’s 116 community colleges) has been working for many years to create an infrastructure to meet the growing demand for virtual education effectively, so we are not starting from square one. The California Virtual College – Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI) is a collaborative project designed to provide California community students access to thousands of online, transfer-level courses offered by our system’s community colleges. In the past, students desiring to enroll in online courses had to either limit themselves to those offered by their “home college” or search college-by-college for the courses they need, and then manually apply to and enroll in multiple colleges. However, the CVC-OEI offers a “one-stop-shop” website that allows students to search for particular online classes offered statewide. This makes creating an online schedule of classes much easier for students and their counselors, and they will struggle less with classes that are difficult to get into or not offered at their home colleges.
After several years of careful discussion about this initiative, I am excited to say that I signed an agreement that formalized CR’s inclusion in the CVC-OEI Consortium last month. The CVC-OEI not only presents a significant change for community college students; it also presents a momentous change for College of the Redwoods. Historically, the people served by each community college were defined geographically. Each college focused on recruiting students within its service area. The CVC-OEI, though, expands CR’s reach. We could have students in our online courses who live across the state. Because California community colleges receive funding in large part based on their enrollments, we see our participation in the CVC-OEI as an opportunity to help us increase enrollment and remain fiscally sustainable as a rural college.
But College of the Redwoods is not likely to benefit from the CVC-OEI simply by being included. We have to make sure our courses and programs can compete with those being offered by other community colleges across the state. To that end, the College of the Redwoods Academic Senate is establishing a “Peer Online Course Review” team (the POCR Team, pronounced “poker”) that encourages CR faculty to work together to ensure that our online courses are of the highest quality. Once certified as a high-quality course, our courses will receive a badge certificate in the CVC-OEI that lets potential students know it is a peer-reviewed, quality course, and which causes the course to rise to the top of any search.
I believe the CVC-OEI will be helpful to CR students looking for that hard-to-get required class for their degree or certificate, and I also believe that it presents an important opportunity for CR to attract students from across the state and eventually transfer to Cal Poly Humboldt. CR’s faculty are among the best in the state, and the CVC-OEI will allow more students access to their outstanding instruction.
Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.