Remodeling education

State, district support online growth through Canvas

By The Advocate, Editorial Board

Canvas, the online learning platform recently approved for all 113 of California’s community colleges, will change higher education in the next 10 years more than any new buildings could.

Do not be mistaken. All it takes is one glimpse at the heart of the Contra Costa College campus to know it is transforming into a modern and beautiful facility again thanks to Measure A taxpayer dollars.

But changing how we learn, how we teach and how we think about education is our job as students and educators. We will reconfigure the mind of our campus and Canvas is the perfect tool to do it.

Canvas is an online learning platform that provides an intuitive communication system, merit system, grading tools, real-time video conferences, downloadable apps, mobile accessibility, 24/7 math and English tutoring services, and the potential to join a course exchange network including all 113 California community colleges.

Any college that joins the California Community College Chancellor’s Office Online Education Initiative (OEI) is provided with the tool to give students and their instructors a shared and interactive learning experience for free.

When the district adopted Canvas it did so at not cost until the 2018-19 college year, and at a discounted rate after.

The state has set these incentives to encourage its 113 community colleges to become used to the unifying online learning platform it selected — Canvas.

Professors can use either Canvas or Desire 2 Learn for their courses now, but they will be required to use Canvas at the start of the 2017 fall semester.

CCC President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said the $40,000 that the district would pay annually for such an online learning platform will be used to pay for more online course offerings, and to train professors to use Canvas as the contract with Desire 2 Learn, which is being phased out, will not be renewed starting in June 2017.

This cornerstone to future students’ success districtwide was set when the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board decided to join OEI and implement Canvas on Jan. 23.

“A major endeavor over the last couple of years has been to have an online version of all general education courses,” Mehdizadeh said, “so students who find it difficult to get to our campus will have an opportunity to still enroll in online courses.”

Professors and students need to work together to make the most of the additional funding the district has for online education and thus improve the shared learning experience.

While it will take time, the sooner CCC professors get used to the functions that Canvas provides them, the sooner we can begin to help a large demographic of people who struggle to find the time for school and work.

English professor Robin Brooke Eubanks, the first person to teach an English class fully online at CCC using Canvas, said the idea of enrolling into college courses can be intimidating for people who have to work full time, have children or struggle academically.

Eubanks said, “But as online education develops and we get more (online) course offerings, students who would usually feel turned away by the traditional classroom will realize they can get an education too.”

Canvas is the harbinger of fundamental change in terms of how we understand education. We can embrace it, or get left behind.