For over a decade, faculty in our district have effectively developed and offered a number of hybrid and fully online courses...and DE numbers are up! The State Chancellor's Office reports on distance education show that feedback from both faculty and students involved in distance learning has been very positive and most want to teach or take more distance learning courses. Our own research shows that every year hundreds of students in our district take online courses exclusively. Granted, not all courses are appropriate for distance learning and not all students are self-disciplined distance learners. This would explain why, initially, the state Chancellor's Office reported a gap in course completion between traditional courses and distance education courses. Fortunately, as a result of numerous efforts on the part of the District and its campuses, and faculty, that gap has been narrowing each year.
Increasing student success and access to postsecondary educational opportunities are key elements of the SMCCCD Strategic Plan. Therefore, online faculty at all three colleges in our district are encouraged to participate in professional development through the District’s STOT Training Program, which seeks to engage faculty and staff in the development and delivery of exceptional online courses and student support services. As more and more faculty and students become comfortable with distance education, it is natural for us to continue evaluating and expanding our distance learning program. To better coordinate these efforts, the Chancellor and the Presidents of the three colleges formed a special district wide committee (DEAC), co-chaired by a faculty member and the Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Planning. Two key purposes of this committee are to address the District's technological needs in assisting student learning, and to enhance the efforts in the assessment and expansion of distance education.
Further, Chancellor Galatolo has always envisioned greater access to learning for our community (and beyond) through technology-assisted instruction. Therefore he charged the faculty and administration at all three campuses to respond creatively to the demand for innovative approaches to teaching and learning online, while preserving the quality of instruction and the academic freedom of our faculty. CSM responded to that challenge and, as a result, XLOnline Courses ® were born. Unique to and registered by the SMCCCD, these next generation online courses allow students increased access to the online classes they need via larger class sizes, increase student success by way of free online tutoring, and promote higher education to those considering college through online guest access!
Ultimately, to place our students first, the three colleges and the District must continue to work closely together. In so doing, we will create robust student support services programs consistently across the district and develop increasingly effective online instruction which maximizes resource allocation and professional development training, both technologically and pedagogically.