Finding Your Regional Distance Education Community

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What if you could meet regularly with peers from neighboring community colleges to share solutions and ideas about online education?  For faculty and staff at California community colleges located in southern border counties, this wish has come true.

The San Diego/ Imperial County Community College Association (SDICCCA) has an Instructional Services subcommittee on Distance Education that was founded in late 2012.  The subcommittee is made up of Distance Education representatives from nine community colleges in the San Diego and Imperial County area.  SDICCA members meet at the San Diego Community College District offices on the first Friday of each month. Together, we discuss and provide leadership on DE issues such as practices for supporting and preparing faculty and students, strategies for improving student retention and success, as well as effective practices for meeting accreditation requirements and state/national distance education regulations.

Finding My Community 

As the new DE Coordinator for Palomar College, I just started attending these SDICCA meetings this year and I have learned so much from the other long-time members of the group.  For example, since community colleges are making compliance with accessibility laws and regulations a big priority this year, we have explored ideas for handling vendor software that is out of compliance.  Here are a problem and proposed solution that I have taken away from my experiences. Many mathematics instructors use MyMathLab in their online classes and, currently, MyMathLab does not meet the minimum acceptable standards for accessibility.  SDICCCA members shared with the group other software that may be substituted such as Knewton or MyOpenMath, which has some accessibility issues but not as many as MyMathLab.

In our last meeting, each college DE representative shared something about the various software packages they were using to support DE classes.  Together, we discovered:

  • Many colleges in our region are looking at third-party tools to augment the discussion board feature in Canvas. These tools include Harmonize and Notebowl, which deliver more social learning experiences with multimedia integration.  Also, VoiceThread is already being used by some for multimedia discussions and student-generated projects.
  • Palomar College is making use of Proctorio, a remote way to proctor exams and it was noted that Proctorio is available at no-cost to those at  OEI consortium colleges.

In addition to discussions around key themes, members share concerns about DE issues, report back to each other on what is happening at the state level, and they give an annual presentation to administrators to help them understand the benefits of online education, as well as the challenges we confront in expanding this teaching modality.

I highly recommend that other regional community colleges form DE groups of their own.  The sharing of ideas, concerns, and technology with each other are extremely beneficial! 

Posted in Blog, faculty support, Uncategorized.

Steve is the Distance Education Coordinator for Palomar College and a Professor in the Computer Science/Information Technology Department.

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