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Questions 3 and 4
by the SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends & Strategies
Question 3 Brief: A general consensus among the interviewees was that community colleges have historically been, and continue to be, highly effective and sought out partners with small and big businesses for the development of employee training programs, but there is still a lot to accomplish and enough barriers to overcome to keep everyone busy for a long time with fine-tuning and improving workforce development efforts.
Cameron explained how GTCC has “outstanding partnership relations with the companies in our area.” He added that GTCC has been successful in the area of workforce training and development through the utilization of a 40-year-old industry standard called the DACUM Process (Develop a Curriculum, from Ohio State University), whereby GTCC brings in key employees from local businesses who attend a day-and-a-half process to “identify the general knowledge and skills required of successful workers; the tools, equipment, supplies, and materials used; the important worker behaviors essential for success; and the future trends and concerns likely to cause job changes” (see DACUM Process website).
Lassiter talked about DCCCD’s recent progress in the area of workforce development through a $450 million capital improvement bond program that has brought about the construction of new facilities at six colleges that are dedicated to workforce development. Two of the colleges, for example, have Entrepreneurship Colleges. In addition, the Garland Campus of Richland College is a DCCCD award-winning community campus focused on workforce training and development. Training is provided for individuals who are entering the workforce for the first time and for those currently employed who want to enhance their skill sets. “It is unique in that the total focus is on workforce development. The Garland Chamber of Commerce is housed there, thus enabling two significant stakeholders and players in the workforce development arena to work collaboratively,” Lassiter explained. “Because of that partnership, it was possible to form the Dallas Area Manufacturers Association with those two partners working with all of the manufacturing firms in the Garland area to foster programs and initiatives in the manufacturing arena. This has already met with great success.”
Snyder: It has been my experience in Indiana that employers clearly recognize that the community college is the best place to get workers trained, but my experience with employers has also been that the internal training dollars they would use both inside and outside is one of the first things to get cut in a downturn. [In addition], when working with employers, there is a need for them to set hiring standards that have established certifications so that they are bringing in workers with some training in advance. Some of the leading employers of the state like Caterpillar and Cummins are evaluating and adding things, such as a manufacturing certificate, which gives them some indication that a worker is better prepared.
de los Santos: I think there are a few barriers. I think we still have some perceptual challenges and communication challenges. For instance, we’re still hearing from the business community that they didn’t realize their local community colleges could provide the training they need to help re-skill their workforce, or to provide continuous education, or new training programs. There needs to be that continuous outreach and that awareness created with the business community about the roles that community colleges play in workforce training and economic development. That’s one of the keys.
I think the other piece is that big employers, the national ones, are looking for a one-stop shop. They would like to go to one place and be able to get training for all of their national sites and then just be able to plug and play with that one entrance point and coordination point. We don’t have that. You can’t just go to one organization, you can’t go to a community college and say, ‘I would like to get a training program for my lab technicians and have 75 labs throughout the country; so, can you broker for us with every single college — and will it be the same quality, will it be the same consistency, and do we have all that articulated?’ Right now, we don’t have a system to do that.
Also, employers need to be telling us what they want, and they need to continue to make bigger investments in partnering with local community colleges so that we’re able to provide the training that they’re looking for. It’s really a symbiotic relationship that we need to continue to work on.
Question 4 Brief: Online education has become an integral part of the growth of community colleges, but not all community colleges have been able to implement sophisticated online learning programs at a large scale due to a lack of appropriate staff and support. Nonetheless, the flexibility factor that comes with offering online courses and programs, alone, is very attractive to the many working adults who enroll in community colleges.
Lambert, for instance, said that “today I don’t think any college or university has an option not to have a virtual presence. So, the question is, what form does that take, and who drives that in terms of its full integration into a face-to-face campus that also allows for some really strong programming in the virtual space?” He also noted that Shoreline Community College is moving into the mobile space — iPads, smartphones, and similar mobile devices — by looking closer at how to deliver educational content and provide more access to the community college overall through mobile devices. In addition, Shoreline has a virtual college leadership team that is charged with “taking inventory of what we are doing and looking at where we can strengthen our gaps so that the things we are doing 100% online can become more readily accessible to students, not only from a local perspective, but from national and international perspectives.”
Milliron referred to an article he wrote, “Online Education vs, Traditional Learning: Time to End the Family Feud,” published in October in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Let’s stop having the conversation about what’s better, online or face-to-face,” he said. “We need to start having some good conversations about what‘s the right mix of all the tools at our disposal that can be put together to help learning be more effective, and we need to be radically tough-minded about it.”
Thor: There’s not even a question about whether institutions are going to do this anymore. The differentiator for me is whether or not colleges are taking a systemic integrated approach to online and hybrid or blended, or if they’re using the craft model. I obviously have a bias, having been president of Rio Salado College for 20 years [where a systemic integrated approach is utilized].
If you visited Rio Salado, you would not find a distance learning department because it is totally integrated into the college. It is what the college does. [But first] let me talk about the more common model, which I would call a crafts model. That is, for example, where you have an individual faculty member who is interested in putting, let’s say, her English composition course online. She works usually by herself, and she puts her course up. It gets listed in the schedule, and students enroll, and she does virtually everything for those students. She’s developed the content, she’s reviewing the assignments, she’s giving the tests, she’s responding to their questions, and so on. She’s the only one who teaches that course. Now, you may have a second faculty member in that English department who also wants to put her English composition course online. She will put up a different course, and then a third. And this faculty member only wants to teach five online English composition courses, and you may have demand for ten.
In the Rio Salado model a team is used. When they identify a need for an English composition course, a team is made up of content experts, of instructional designers, of technologists, and of student services people who will build it. They develop the best possible English composition course that they can, and that course is then supported by a system that includes a technology help desk, an instructional help desk, the built-in student services, a 24/7 reference library, etc. Then, depending on student demands, any number of faculty members will teach that course. So, in other words, they’re not reinventing the wheel every time they need to add another section. The individual faculty member may augment the course, but the basic course is developed, including the assessments, which are then administered out of the testing centers. So the faculty member’s role becomes that of a facilitator and guide and evaluator. They’re not expected to be experts in the technology or online course design. That is frankly an infinitely scalable model which allows Rio Salado to start its classes every Monday. The traditional way that colleges have developed online courses is not scalable.
Gould: This year, for the first time in my more than 36 years in or related to public education, I read a report from a public agency that favors online education due to the cost savings. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office publication, “The Master Plan at 50: Using Distance Education to Increase College Access and Efficiency,” identified distance education as having many potential benefits to students, faculty, and the state.
While distance education is not applicable as a solution for every student, it offers much promise for the future to allow for more accessible and efficient learning opportunities and thus cut the cost of instruction and perhaps move towards standardized learning outcomes.
There are still many challenges for online education. Many institutions limit teaching of distance education to members of the full-time faculty and may have bargained through their collective bargaining agent for that limitation. Some accreditation bodies limit the amount of online instruction that can be offered.
The current recovering recession and declining public resources available to colleges certainly challenge the current way community colleges do programs. In California, a centralized or even regionalized approach to distance education is absent. While there are many well-developed online programs, each seems to have its own LMS, host, and course developers and designers. Few, if any, approach the cost effective, quality educational program offered at Rio Salado College. However, the possibility exists to change access and the cost of education in a large state like California. Having the non-partisan advisory to the California Legislature endorse that possibility gives me hope that the future of education rests in cyberspace.
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