A few of our previous College Matters articles have discussed how our CR faculty has beautifully changed our teaching in “virtual classrooms” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of meeting on-campus peers and instructors in classrooms, students attended Zoom lecture sessions, watched video lectures, and participated in online discussions to master their disciplines.
As we emerge from the pandemic phase of COVID-19 and begin to resume normal operations, we know that some students will appreciate the opportunity to learn in person again. We also know that many students have organized their work and family lives around the flexibility of online education offerings and will want to continue taking classes virtually. Therefore, we anticipate greater demand for online education than we experienced before the pandemic. This is the case not only for the College of the Redwoods, but also for colleges across the state and nation.
The good news is that the Chancellor’s Office of California Community College (the agency that oversees California’s 116 community colleges) has worked for many years to create an infrastructure to effectively meet the growing demand for virtual education. So we are not starting from zero. a. The California Virtual College – Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI) is a collaborative project designed to provide students in the California community with access to thousands of transfer-level online courses offered by community colleges in our system. In the past, students wishing to enroll in online courses either had to limit themselves to those offered by their “home university” or search college by college for the courses they needed and then manually enroll in multiple colleges. However, the CVC-OEI offers a “one-stop-shop” website that allows students to search for particular online courses offered throughout the state. This makes creating an online course schedule much easier for students and their advisors, and they will have less trouble with courses that are hard to get into or not offered at their home colleges.
After several years of in-depth discussions on this initiative, I am delighted 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 to its service area. The CVC-OEI, however, extends the reach of CR. We may have students in our online classes who live statewide. Because California community colleges receive funding largely based on enrollment, we view our participation in CVC-OEI as an opportunity to help us increase enrollment and remain financially viable as a rural college.
But College of the Redwoods probably won’t benefit from CVC-OEI just by being included in it. We must ensure that our courses and programs can compete with those offered by other community colleges across the state. To that end, the Sequoia College Academic Senate is establishing an “Online Peer Review Course” team (the POCR team, pronounced “poker”) that encourages CR professors 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 which lets prospective students know that it is a quality, peer-reviewed course and allows the course to rise to the top of any search.
I believe the CVC-OEI will be useful for CR students seeking that hard-to-obtain required class for their degree or certificate, and I also believe it presents a significant opportunity for CR to attract students from across the Condition and possibly transfer to Cal Poly Humboldt. CR faculty are some of the best in the state, and CVC-OEI will allow more students to access their exceptional teaching.
Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.