Online learning expands outreach

Program offers path to higher education

By Xavier Johnson, Web Editor

The ongoing efforts to boost the Contra Costa Community College District’s effectiveness in its use of online education continues this semester as online courses grow in number and professors are trained to teach students online.

Distance education, according to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, is instruction in which the instructor and student are separated by time and/or distance and interact through the assistance of technology.

Distance education includes full and hybrid online courses offered at Contra Costa College and throughout the district.

Online instruction takes place through the learning management system Canvas.

To support the growth of the district’s distance education initiatives, the CCC Distance Education Committee and the district’s District Distance Education Council (DDEC) work to improve student and professor experience.

Philosophy and humanities department Chairperson Michael Kilivris serves as CCC’s distance learning coordinator. He said this year, the college will be focusing on improving the quality of online classes and reducing the equity gap among online students.

“The funding from the CVC-OEI Improving Online CTE Pathways Grant will help us provide more robust support and resources for all DE faculty and students at CCC,” he said.

The California Virtual Campus-Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI) Improving Online CTE Pathways grant provides funds to improve online programs with grants from a thousand to tens of thousands of dollars to be implemented in a one-year time frame.

The grant will help support the program at CCC, in addition to the already allocated distance education budget.

Online education has value for students to get a certificate or degree while maintaining a flexible work or family schedule.

While it does have its benefits, Kilivris said these students will still need support because succeeding in an online course takes its own set of skills.

Diablo Valley College English professor Anne Kingsley said distance education programs aim to provide support and fight the notion that online classes are “learning in your pajamas.”

“(Students) might be on their phone, working a night shift and reading on a Kindle while they are on break,” Kingsley said. “They are checking into their class between their in-person classes because they are attending school both in-person and online.”

Adapting to students’ educational needs is a main goal of the DDEC — helping to develop support structures for students.

Kilivris said a disadvantage of distance education can be that students may not be fully prepared for online learning and success.

Providing support for professors is also crucial to the success of distance education programs. Kingsley said one of the main successes of the DDEC was setting up a training program for instructors teaching online courses.

She said due to the rapidly evolving landscape of online education, it can become difficult for instructors to keep up with best practices and new technology. Sustaining that balance is the goal of the training course.

“The biggest success in the past year of DDEC has been building an online training program for online instructors. In a 4-week class (fully online), instructors learn best practices in online teaching and how to use Canvas tools to facilitate strong pedagogy in distance ed,” Kingsley said.

Drama department Chairperson Carlos-Manuel Chavarria said online education has several significant differences that cause him to adjust his teaching style and time management. Due to the lack of regular face-to-face time, student-teacher interactions happen at irregular intervals through email, which changes the typical flow of communication.

“In class lectures, students usually talk to me all the time before or after class. Online, students are always trying to communicate with emails 24/7.”

“There is a clear distinction and understanding about communication. In the classroom, students seem to limit themselves to class time and office hours, but online students just shoot emails at all times,” Chavarria said.