Newly funded in the 2018-19 state budget, the Online Community College will make quality, affordable, public education accessible to the 2.5 million Californians for whom the traditional model of education is out of reach. The Online Community College will offer programs using a model of competency-based education and will provide short-term courses, stackable credentials, flexible course scheduling, and specialized technology-enabled student supports. For California and our nation to meet workforce needs, working adults need a viable option to upskill and obtain credentials that open new pathways to educational and career opportunities.
The Foundation for California Community Colleges is partnering with philanthropy to accelerate the college’s launch and support iterative enhancements as the college scales. Through innovative projects supported by philanthropy, the college will deliver a responsive path to better wages for workers most at risk of being left behind in an economy driven by technological change.
Delivering innovation through philanthropy
In collaboration with our philanthropic partners, the Foundation is creating the Innovation and Acceleration Fund to ensure a margin of excellence for both the Online Community College’s launch and enhancements as the college scales, new pathways are developed, and actual students’ experience and outcomes are understood. Support from philanthropy is crucial to draw top talent, maximize employer partnerships, apply insights from behavioral science and user research, ensure student perspectives are central to design, and develop wrap-around support services into a community of care to help students overcome barriers.
To date, support from philanthropy has provided capacity building and facilitated critical partnerships. Launch project partnerships include:
- A planning and visioning workgroup and the development of the report to Governor Brown on online learning options for the California Community College system were completed through support from the Kresge Foundation. A second partnership will provide additional start-up supports.
- The Economic Mobility for Retail Workers Project supports the launch of the college by developing employer partnerships, accelerating early pathway development and design, and addressing barriers faced by retail and other service sector workers. This project is made possible by support from the Walmart Foundation.
- The ECMC Foundation is supporting a listening and engagement project to ensure student and faculty perspectives are incorporated into the design of the Online College.
- The James Irvine Foundation organized and hosted a funder convening for philanthropy interested in learning more about how the college could provide training as a way to respond to the future of work.
Additional opportunities are available to pilot new pathways, support research and design refinements, help set key performance indicators, incentivize excellence, and support special projects.
Designed to serve working adults
The California Community Colleges already play a lead role in addressing the workforce skills gap by offering employer-valued certificates and degrees, but struggle to reach and retain working adults. For the economic growth associated with a robust, skilled workforce to be equitable and inclusive, we need to build a postsecondary system that is agile, responsive, and empowering to an individual’s lifelong learning journey. The Online Community College will reimagine how the California Community College system teaches and supports its students, placing students at the center of the college’s design, and leveraging the best of what we know works in tech-enabled learning with testing new and promising approaches that can grow the evidence base of how to improve outcomes for adult learners.
The Online Community College seeks to serve adults ages 25 and older who have a high school diploma or GED, or some college but no certificate or degree. These micro-credentials, offered in defined pathways, will give students the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the changing economy, preparing them for in-demand careers.
Three initial pathways are being developed which will prepare students for careers in information technology, medical coding, and as first-line supervisors.
- The information technology credential will offer network support and user support programs and include foundational curriculum in literacy, numeracy, digital, and soft skills necessary for the IT workplace.
- The medical coding credential, created in partnership with the SEIU-UHW Joint Employer Education Fund, will teach students about the transformation of healthcare diagnosis, procedures, medical services, and equipment into universal medical alphanumeric codes. It will offer career advancement for entry-level healthcare workers, such as medical assistants and information clerks.
- The first-line supervisor credential will address a forecasted need of 93,000 workers across 17 occupational areas through 2021.
Additional pathways identified based on need may be added as part of the initial offerings. The first cohort of students will enroll by the end of 2019.