A little bit of controversy has surrounded Governor Brown’s request for an entirely online community college – or perhaps it’s better to say that the controversy surrounds Chancellor Oakley’s response. In answer to the Governor’s request in May, Chancellor Oakley created FLOW, Flex Learning Options for Workers, with the goal of enabling Californians to have increased flexible access to the education and training they need, both for their own advancement, and also to “better serve working adults in order to meet California’s workforce needs” (From the Doing What Matters info sheet).
A Working Group was formed to address the goals of FLOW, and our own Dr. Anthony Culpepper is one of the 19 members of the group whose tasks were as follows:
The proposed fully-online community college has been described as a “Turbo-OEI” (Online Education Initiative), and it has stirred anxiety about the quality of education to be offered in the name of California’s community colleges, as well as the possibility of syphoning students from existing brick-and-mortar colleges in the system – many of which have already seen a loss of enrollment over the last few years. These anxieties were exacerbated by the remarkable speed with which the enterprise has been devised and heads toward approval and – presumably – implementation. Dr. Culpepper has recently agreed to make a presentation to the faculty at a Faculty meeting in the spring.
At last month’s ASCCC plenary, four different Resolutions concerning FLOW were carried, the first by acclamation 7.10, “Using System Consultation and Faculty Input to Address Expansion of Online Education”:
Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges work with system partners and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to relay to the governor and other interested parties that the goals of the governor and the FLOW workgroup can be better accomplished using existing resources and structures within the community college system rather than by creating a separate online college or other entity; and
Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges work with system partners and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to develop a clear and effective plan for addressing the goals of the governor and the FLOW workgroup in a manner that utilizes existing system structures and ensures academic quality for all students.
Another resolution, 7.10, included the resolve that the ASCCC “urge the chancellor to request of the governor an extended deadline in order that a plan for meeting the governor’s goals be developed with greater consultation, deliberation, and effectiveness.”
Two further resolutions (9.02 and 9.03) addressed issues of credit based on competence, as well as the possibility of online CTE courses.
Clearly, our statewide Academic Senate is eager to have a voice (our voice) in the development of online education for California’s community college students – especially those who may not previously have been able to become students in traditional classes due to vocational obligations.
However, the speed with which the FLOW solution has been developed, while refreshing from one perspective, is troubling from many others. The very brief period in which public comment was solicited (from November 8th to 22nd) only added to the apprehension.
As Julie Bruno, president of the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges, wrote, “The Academic Senate is completely supportive of expanding access to underserved populations, improving outreach efforts, addressing equity gaps, and providing the scaffolding for socio-economic mobility through workforce training and educational attainment. It is also supportive of innovation in online instruction and student support to achieve these goals, as demonstrated through the Academic Senate’s involvement in and support of the Online Education Initiative that has developed structures and processes to expand online educational opportunities for Californians.”
We can look forward to the spring, when we will hear more about FLOW right here at GCC.