California Overhauls Catalog of Online Courses


California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris has announced an overhaul of the system’s catalog of online courses, called the California Virtual Campus, which will make it easier to find which classes are transferable to the California State University System.

California Virtual Campus gives students information on more than 19,000 courses offered by community colleges, CSU, UC, and private colleges, which are available to the students of any of those institutions. More than 2,500 of these satisfy Associate Degree for Transfer requirements, and 1,400 more online degree programs. An Associate Degree for Transfer will guarantee a student a spot as a junior at CSU.

Students will be able to search for these courses directly or browse for courses that are marked by an icon, according to the Sierra Sun Times. The update also makes for easier use of the site on mobile devices.

Matt Williams of Tech Wire quoted Steve Klein, the director for California’s Online Education Initiative, about how the changes will result in improvements:

We’re very pleased to share that the refresh of the catalog offers a better online student experience to find those Associate Degree for Transfer courses, identify where the courses are available and ultimately register to successfully complete that course.

The Online Education Initiative is a partnership among California community colleges with a goal of increasing the completion rate of online courses, which is 10-12% lower than the rate of completion in traditional classrooms. The program hopes to encourage community college students to apply to four-year universities and continue their education.

Many students begin online courses thinking they’re going to be easier, but find themselves unprepared for the self-motivation required of online learning, writes Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Harris said:

California may well be one of the largest providers of online education in the country. We have a responsibility to make it as good as we can and to provide support.

The exciting upgrades we’ve made to the catalog will allow students to clearly and quickly see what classes fulfill transfer program requirements and serve to improve pathways to CSU, a significant step in our drive to foster student success through improved online education.

This improved virtual catalog is part of a broader offering of services developed as part of the Online Education Initiative. The investment made by the governor and Legislature in this initiative places a heavy emphasis on support systems tailored to the diverse needs of our 2.1 million students.

More than 29% of California’s 2.1 million community college students will take a distance learning course this year compared to 12.5% ten years ago.

These improvements were funded by $57 million devoted to online education in 2013, writes Meg Bernhard of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The next steps will involve training instructors on how to teach effectively with online courses and helping students learn the skills necessary to succeed with self-motivated learning.