The California Community Colleges (CCC) system is one of the largest in the country, with 112 community colleges, 86 districts and almost 90,000 faculty members serving 2.1 million students.
In November 2014, the creation of an online clearinghouse including professional-development tools and information for all faculty members — regardless of college location or size — started.
“Every faculty member should be able to receive information and services to make what they do with students even better,” says Blaine Morrow, director of telecommunications and technology infrastructure projects at Palomar College, in San Marcos. “With a big state like California, we are disconnected because of geography, but we don’t have to be technologically.”
Through a partnership with the chancellor’s office, a series of statewide summits provided input and ideas to establish the online clearinghouse. In April, the initial phase was completed.
Now, there is a universal calendar of every professional-development opportunity in the entire system, from teaching Braille to creating a PowerPoint presentation. There are resources such as a guide to commonly used acronyms, a directory of speakers and experts, and a portfolio function that logs individuals’ professional-development credentials.
“This can be useful both personally and professionally,” Morrow says.
Supporting faculty with an online platform
As part of this global project, CCC has partnered with Grovo, an online-learning platform that provides training and technological support. “Grovo provides microlearning — very professional, well-designed videos on a variety of topics,” Morrow says. There are short one- to two-minute videos on hard- and soft-skill topics; users can find a video specific to a particular need, whether it’s understanding Microsoft Outlook or just figuring out how to change an e-mail signature. “They take you through every aspect of what you want to learn.”
With Grovo, educators can record in their portfolio cumulative learning in specific subject-area online credentials, or badges. This way, the college’s human resources department will know about the faculty member’s additional training.
“It will create more internal experts who can share information among themselves,” Morrow says.
Grovo also makes it possible for instructors to add their own materials to existing training tools or to create new ones. “It will take what the CCC has, break it up and format into its structure to use with video, PowerPoint, documents and assessment,” Morrow says. “It would make it possible to create a credential for that training.”
“Grovo is a do-it-yourself, simple learning-management system,” he adds.
Funding and testing virtual learning
The initial seed money for the project came from the Online Education Initiative, funded by Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget, to support virtual learning across California. Ultimately, the plan is that the clearinghouse will be maintained by the CCC system, Morrow explains.
While the clearinghouse is functional, it remains in beta mode, with about 200 people having access. With some details left to work out, such as where the domain will reside, the goal is to have everything ready for an official launch this fall.
Once it’s available to everyone, the individual colleges will be able to embed a search engine on their own sites to reach the clearinghouse and associated links, Morrow says. There would also be ways to link directly to Grovo, he adds.
“We are going to continue to ask for more ideas and add more features,” Morrow says.
It’s all part of the overriding goal to improve student success and completion.
“Things change all the time,” Morrow says. “Sometimes we discover an effective practice for student retention or a way to help returning veterans, but it can be difficult for others to find, because there are silos. There is no way for different departments to share information in a central place. We will be more effective for students.”