Community College Conversations at OLC Accelerate


Kate Jordahl, Director of Academic Affairs and Consortia, CCC California Virtual Campus-Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI)

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Calling all Community College Colleagues! The Online Learning Consortium Accelerate Conference (November 19-22, 2019, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, Lake Buena Vista, Florida) has so much to offer practitioners from our segment of higher education. Our particular concerns for our students as well as the universal topics of Online Education mix in this event in exciting ways. We also have much to offer our University counterparts, to whom I often say: “My students are not your students, but my students WILL be your students.” Community colleges have been at the forefront of the expansion and improvement of online education.  There are unique issues for community college students, but when we do our job at the community college, those students go on to thrive at the university level and succeed in the workforce. 

I am honored and excited to be working with Kevin Kelly and Michael Torrance to present a special OLC Accelerate session for community college professionals: “Community College Conversations: An Unconference Session On Access, Equity, and Quality at the Community Colleges” which will take place on Wednesday, November 20th from 3:45 pm to 4:30 pm in the Asia 2 room at the OLC Accelerate Conference.  

This session will be in the spirit, if not the details, of an ‘unconference’–which Rebecca Bagley (2014) calls an “opportunity to have an unfiltered exchange of innovative ideas.” Usually, an unconference runs for half a day or longer, so let’s call this ‘unconference light.’ We very much want a) to have each table talk freely about distance education issues for community colleges and b) to collect those ideas to share out after the conference. Each practitioner has unique insights and ideas; this unconference-style session is a way to share these ideas and make connections with like-minded educators.

This forty-five minute ‘Education Session’ is intended to start a conversation that will hopefully continue beyond the conference. Together we face a wide range of challenges. Only 20-25% of our students are reaching their academic goals. First-generation students and other demographic groups face continued and significant gaps in achievement, retention, and opportunity. Therefore, we need to join forces, share insights, and talk about what we are doing that makes a difference for all of our students. 

The session will begin with short remarks from the moderators.  I am from California and Michael Torrence is from Tennessee–together, we bring a Coast-to-Coast view to the discussion about online education at community colleges. I bring my multiple perspectives as a long-time faculty member now working as Director of Academic Affairs and Consortia for the California Virtual Campus-Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI). The CVC-OEI team is charged with expanding access, equity, and quality for the California Community Colleges, the largest system of higher education in the nation, comprised of 115 colleges and serving 2.1 million students per year. As President of Motlow College, Michael Torrence brings his viewpoint as a campus leader, but also his work on open educational resources, STEAMB (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Aviation, Mathematics, and Business),  and embracing the use of technological literacy as a platform to increase student engagement and success. We will be joined by Kevin Kelly, an online instructor at SF State and a higher ed consultant who has been working with community college partners like Peralta Community College District to research and address online achievement gaps through collaborative projects like the Peralta Online Equity Rubric.

Where do you come in? This is your call to action:

  1. Before: Help us brainstorm the topics to discuss at OLC Accelerate — email me and share your thoughts; 
  2. During: Come to the session, and be brilliant!; and 
  3. Help us continue and further develop the conversation(s) around the following core questions:
  1. What do you think are the unique issues and equally unique opportunities for those of us dedicated to this sector for contribution, expanded access, enhancing student success, and creating equity for our many students? 
  2. What are the innovations that can make significant differences in our effectiveness? 
  3. What are the analytics and metrics we need to validate our work and be more effective in our efforts? 

After sharing about our work and examples from the field, Michael, Kevin and I will lead this ‘unconference’ session having participants helping to set the agenda and, after discussion in small groups led by community college leaders, share their insights. What concerns you? What excites you? How is your work with and for students of the nation’s community colleges changing in light of technology and practices in pedagogy? Please email any thoughts and/or stories to me at for us to weave into this session and then join us on Wednesday, November 20th. We look forward to seeing you at OLC Accelerate and moving this discussion forward! 

Kate Jordahl, Director of Academic Affairs and Consortia, provides leadership and coordination for the CVC-OEI Consortium. She oversees the implementation process for colleges joining Consortium. Prior to joining the CVC-OEI, Jordahl worked at Foothill College for 19 years as a professor and administrator. She served Foothill College Faculty Representative on the Foothill College OEI Implementation Team, OEI Consortium and the OEI Common Course Management System Committee.  In addition to being a Peer Online Course Reviewer and online faculty mentor, she designed and facilitated the Foothill College Online Teaching Certification Course (OTC). She is a board member for the Online Learning Consortium and Executive Conference Co-Chair for the OLC Accelerate 2020 conference.

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