​California making headway on plans for first fully online community college

California Gov. Jerry Brown shared details about how his state is getting closer to rolling out its first fully online community college.

California is getting closer to rolling out a fully online, competency-based community college, which, if successful, would become the first community college of its kind nationwide.

Gov. Jerry Brown, delivering remarks to the California Community Colleges Board of Governor in Sacramento on Monday, continued to push his plan to deliver a new type of online community college for California’s working adults.

Brown, a Democrat, also shared details of the advances the state has made toward designing the college, which aims to be infinitely scalable . The office of California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley in previous months has convened “Future of Work” meet-ups to determine how emerging technologies, such as aritfiical intelligence (AI), and new trends, such as the rise of the gig economy, are affecting the current workforce and shaping future opportunities.

Using the feedback generated from these meetings, the chancellor’s office is working to determine education and training needs of potential adult learners across California.


Brown also touted an online college design thinking workshop, hosted by the Institute for the Future . At the meeting in April, the state convened representatives from a range of communities “in a design thinking process to identify areas of innovation for the California Community College system to lead the way for working learners with a fully integrated online college.”

On the horizon, the state plans to hone in on what it wants to see in its new online community college. The chancellor’s office and the Foundation for California Community Colleges will form an advance team to determine what exactly is needed to successfully launch a new college consistent with what California has called for in its budget proposal.

Priorities for the advance team include user-driven research and prototyping, pathway partnerships and early development, research and development functions, research and benchmarking to effective online efforts, establishment of the new online college district, and the executive search for the online college president.

The state’s vision behind the online college is to expand access to millions of Californians in an easy, efficient manner, by offering competency-based coursework to a working population predominantly hoping to gain sub-associate-degree credentials. Demographically, the state is targeting “stranded workers” — adult employees who cannot quit their jobs to get the education that they need to advance their professional prospects in a 21st century economy.

If California’s vision for its online community college is fulfilled, the state would be pioneering a new, reimagined and scalable online learning system.


“It is important that the California Community Colleges be in the forefront and build the framework of the new fully online college to serve people who are not being served,” Brown told the board. “I want people to be able to open their own imaginations whether they are 15 or 50. Now we have a real opportunity to not only learn but to get a certificate and get skills to earn more money, advance and pursue their dreams.”

“This is a no-brainer, it is obvious and it is inevitable,” Brown added. “California will lead in this.”

At the start of the year, Brown proposed standing up a fully online California community college in his budget, with $120 million in funding for the new institution, which will be the state’s 115th community college. Funds for the college were approved by the state legislature in June as part of the 2018-19 budget. Eventually, the college could reach millions of learners, state officials have said .

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