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Fully Online Community College

Online Community College

Governor Jerry Brown’s Plan to Serve Workers Who Need Skills and Credentials to Move Ahead but Cannot Access Traditional College Courses

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fully online community college and why is it needed?

The fully online community college will create flexible, high quality and affordable learning options to serve working adults who lack a college credential and need additional knowledge and skills to get ahead in the economy. Some 2.5 million Californians between the ages of 25 and 34 have only a high school diploma or some college, but no college credential.The online college would offer competency-based education available on-demand. Through partnerships with industry and organized labor, the college would offer the skills employers want on the schedule today’s students need.

Who would benefit from an online community college?

The online community college is designed to benefit working adults who are unable to attend college in person or access traditional online offerings due to work or family obligations. Many working adults face limited opportunities for advancement in their current field and may be at risk of displacement because of advances in automation or artificial intelligence. Others lost jobs during the recession, and recovery and wage gains have been uneven. Many Californians are unprepared to find comparable jobs in a rapidly changing economy unless they improve their skills.

California can’t afford to leave working adults behind. Returning veterans, incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals and other adults seeking the flexibility offered by online education also could benefit from a fully online community college.

Aren’t options already available for this population?

While the California Community Colleges already provide a wide array of online education classes, the state lacks a unified strategy for providing fully online programs that lead to knowledge and skills needed for more Californians to succeed in today’s economy.

Unless provided with flexible learning options that meet underserved working learners where they are, this population will remain stranded in their economic situation because 80 percent of this population is working. Additionally, 48 percent of this population comes from Spanish-speaking households.

Many people who would benefit by the new fully online college are being poorly served by for-profit colleges. Research shows students attending for-profit colleges face a greater likelihood of poor outcomes, including higher student debt coupled with negative post-college earnings on average. The fully online community college would provide significant cost savings for California students who choose this system over these more expensive and less effective options.

Would the new fully online college compete with community colleges?

The online college will not compete for students who are receiving an in-person education or accessing traditional online courses offered by community colleges. It will provide further access to a high quality and affordable alternative for students unable to obtain an education in a traditional setting. The online college would collaborate with existing California community colleges and initiatives to create additional online classes and materials using approaches with demonstrated effectiveness, and colleges would benefit from their efforts through FTES funding or other revenue sharing opportunities.

The California Community Colleges already has the Online Education Initiative. What is different about this approach?

The Online Education Initiative (OEI), which started in 2013, plays an important role in expanding the capacity of individual colleges to offer more transfer-level courses. The initiative’s Course Exchange provides students who enroll at a community college, and cannot find the course they need to complete their degree or transfer, the opportunity to find and take that course online through another college. The Course Exchange is designed to identify and provide courses that fulfill transfer requirements. Pilot registration launched in fall 2016, and currently there are 64 sections of 22 courses available through the OEI.

OEI will play an important role in development of the fully online community college, but it is not a substitute for comprehensively addressing system-wide barriers needed to effectively serve working Californians who predominantly need sub-associate degree credentials.

What kinds of skills and college credentials would be available to students using the fully online community college?

The college will develop short-term credentials and certifications with labor market value. Initially, the college will validate its offering and seek employer partnerships to develop up to three program pathways. Credentials offered will allow working adults to advance their individual labor market gain or upskill to ensure employability.

Who would operate the fully online community college?

The online college would be under the jurisdiction of a newly established independent district under the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, overseen initially by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges. An independent governing board would be established upon the college meeting certain benchmarks.

Would community college faculty be responsible for content and curriculum?

Faculty and industry advisors would identify the knowledge and skills that a student must demonstrate to pass a course and ultimately earn a credential.

What, if any, role would employers play in the fully on-line college and how would they benefit?

Employers who lack skilled workers can face production inefficiencies, resulting in an inability to meet customer demand, and a lack of skilled workers can be a detriment to attracting new businesses and retaining existing ones. Low worker wages mean people have less buying power and contribute less in taxes. Low worker wages can also result in greater use of public assistance. Initially, the college will validate its offerings and seek employer partnerships to develop at least three program pathways within the first three years of implementation.

How effective is online delivery of content with this audience?

Advancements in program design and supports delivered in an online context, especially adaptive learning, have shown comparable results relative to traditional face-to-face settings with diverse student populations. Distance education completion rates within the community college system have steadily increased over time. The gap in success rates between traditional face-to-face and online education courses has gone from 17 percent to 7 percent over the past decade.

What support services would be available to students and who would provide them?

Support services like tutoring, advising, library access and career counseling, will be available to online community college students. Services will be available to students outside of traditional working hours. Other students support services will be provided to the various populations that the online college serves.

How is the project being financed?

The governor’s proposed budget includes $100 million over seven years for the development of the online community college. As a local district, the college’s operational costs will be supported by Proposition 98. Costs for the Chancellor’s Office to provide guidance and direction to the college would be supported by the general fund.

What would be the costs to the students to attend the online community college?

The online college could continue with the current fee-per-unit model, but it would also have the flexibility to offer experimental, subscription-based flat rate for a set time period (or academic term). Regardless of the college’s fee structure, students would be eligible for fee waivers that mimic the California College Promise Grants and College Promise fee waivers. Under such a model, students could take as many courses as desired during that period.

Will the online community college be accredited?

Within four years of implementation, the college would apply for accreditation by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

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California Community Colleges Committed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s Online College to Provide Skills and Training for “Stranded” Working Adults – Press Release, January 10, 2018

Online-only California community college to target 'stranded workers'EdSource, December 8, 2017

This Week in California Education, EdSource Radio interview with Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, December 1, 2017

Statewide and Online Only in CaliforniaInside Higher Ed, November 13, 2017







California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office