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Academic Senate Newsletter

Friday March 15, 2013

President's Update

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Greetings! Spring Session is only a month away, and we are looking forward to addressing the issues of the day with you all. Our theme, “Rising to the Challenge: Responding to Disruptive Forces,” is intended to capture the on-going challenge of responding to often competing demands. The theme is borrowed from a presentation that addresses the five “disruptive forces” that some have claimed will require higher education to change in the next decade. We are already in the midst of many changes that relate to one of the forces, the completion agenda, and have been most cognizant of one of the other forces, alternative delivery mechanisms (i.e., MOOCs). Contrast those two forces with the need for degrees to have value and meaning in a time when educational funding has been eroded and you have an environment that is effectively encouraging a diminishment of quality while asking for a product of demonstrable value. How do we respond to these “forces” and does higher education as we know it need to change in a substantive way?

See you at Session!

Michelle Pilati, Ph.D.

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Budget and Legislation

We are now early in a two-year session with many bills to watch in addition to a policy-laced budget proposal from the Governor. While nothing new has been formally reported with respect to the Governor’s budget proposal, changes to the adult education component are rumored to be forthcoming, and our system appears united in opposition to the proposed changes in census and the 90-unit cap. We are basically in a wait-and-see mode, hopefully with clarifications provided long before the May revise. The other major element of the Governor’s proposal relates to distance education and has prompted a variety of bills related to distance education. While many view distance education as a means of increasing access, we as educators see more and more the need to infuse a focus on success and measures to increase success into the discussion. In the past few weeks we have seen refreshing stories of faculty concern about MOOC quality and research on students who do not succeed in online courses to counteract what can only be described as MOOC-mania. Personally, I think the elements of MOOCs that we should aspire to relate to their slickness, not their size and reach.

On Wednesday, Senator Steinberg unveiled the details of his bill, Senate Bill 520 (Steinberg). As is often the case, the representation of the bill in the media does not do it justice, nor does any of the language around the bill that is currently circulating. While the Academic Senate has no position on the bill at this time, the Senator’s interest in having faculty input is much appreciated. The proposal is complex and would seek to increase access by identifying external providers of online courses who would compete to be the provider to California’s higher education student population of specific courses where we (CCC, CSU, and UC) are not able to meet demand. These courses would require that support be provided, as well as faculty-student contact. They would be offered as a means of supplementing what we do, not supplanting. As we cannot provide credit for a student’s untranscripted educational experience, credit-by-exam would be the means of earning credit – and would, of course, continue to be a matter of local control. I hope local senates can appreciate the many complicated layers of the proposal. I personally cannot imagine a scenario where we would endorse directing students to the online offerings of others, even with some measure of intersegmental faculty vetting. A far more logical approach to increase course access using distance education would be to facilitate student identification of open online offerings across the state and intersegmentally. Currently, no mechanisms exist for facilitating such a process. I continue to hope we can leverage the interest in distance education into assistance to help our faculty better integrate all forms of technology into our teaching. Truly harboring the full-benefit of technology into all forms of instruction is a time-consuming process that is likely worth our time. Using technology to provide additional concept exposure to students is becoming an oft-heard theme, especially in light of the unit restrictions involved in the creation of AA-T and AS-T degrees.

A topic from which we thought we might have relief in this Proposition 30 era has, unfortunately, returned.  Assembly Bill 955 (Williams) proposes, yet again, a two-tiered funding model. This third attempt proposes to limit the two-tiered approach to intersessions. As with similar previous proposals, AB 955 is still a means of allowing the “haves” to have access while the “have nots” are pushed aside.

Of course, several other bills are also worthy of our attention. Rest assured that we are watching them all and will update you as needed.

Student Success Task Force (SSTF) Recommendations

While things have been generally quiet on the SSTF implementation front, a variety of workgroups have been busy. Efforts are underway to align Title 5 language with Senate Bill 1456 (Lowenthal, 2012), revise and update the matriculation funding elements, and determine what the new funding formula will look like in light of SB 1456. As student services funding would be contingent on the provision of services to students, we need to be certain that we can effectively quantify those services and establish a baseline before connecting funding to services can happen.

While we expected that this year would focus more on the instructional side of the SSTF recommendations, system-wide efforts have not materialized and we should be engaging in our own efforts to increase student success at the local level. With that in mind, is your college making progress with respect to implementing appropriate prerequisites? Have you engaged your local feeder school districts in conversations about being college-ready and worked with them to clarify messaging to their students? And are you ensuring students are aware of the recent changes with respect to withdrawal and repetition for a substandard grade? Furthermore, have you modified how you structure your courses to ensure that students are informed early as to their chances of success?  All of these actions can help to enhance the performance of students in our instructional programs, and by addressing them ourselves we can take control of such projects and manage them in ways that we determine to be appropriate.

Part-Time Involvement

We are planning to distribute a revised local senates survey to get a sense of what colleges are doing to involve part-timers in senate activities. A prior survey indicated that a high percentage of respondents were actively engaging their part-time faculty in senate activities. We hope to get a more complete sense of what senates are doing so that we may share effective practices statewide.

Upcoming Non-TMC Discipline Input Group Meetings

In May, we are convening a variety of CTE disciplines to discuss the possible development of C-ID descriptors and model curriculum. These are disciplines selected based on the volume of certificates and non-transfer degrees awarded and are explicitly not being convened for the development of TMCs as those disciplines are selected based on different criteria and collaboratively by the CCC and CSU. It is our hope, however, that we will have CSU participation where appropriate.

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