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California Community Colleges Online Education InitiativeThe big news out of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) is that, since contracting with Instructure for the use of Canvas in July 2015, 84 of our 113 colleges have made the decision to adopt the system.

Never before has a single adoption of this magnitude taken place across the CCC. The adoption rate of the Canvas learning management system is indicative of a system of colleges that is active in its willingness to collaborate for the benefit of the students of California.

The OEI led a 50+ member Common Course Management System (CCMS) Committee, co-chaired by Joe Perret, faculty from Los Angeles Pierce College, and by Steve Klein, OEI Statewide Project Manager at the CCC Technology Center. The committee completed an exhaustive selection process in February 2015. That process included the development and implementation of a request for proposal (RFA), selection of vendors to provide demonstrations, four days of demonstration and deliberation in Sacramento, and final selection activities, which included student representatives.

The committee is still active and meets regularly to review the Canvas product, and works with the Instructure staff to make the system fill the complex needs of the community college system.

Overwhelming Support For Canvas

Canvas was chosen to be offered through a statewide contract for the following reasons:

  1. Commitment to partnership with California Community Colleges
  2. Nearly unanimous decision
  3. Overwhelming support from students
  4. Intuitive end-user experience
  5. History of strong completion and success rate for students
  6. Faculty user adoption rate at colleges significantly higher than other systems
  7. Site visits and reference checks overwhelmingly supportive of vendor product and a confirmation of information shared by the vendor
  8. Flexibility for students to indicate a choice for how to receive notifications and course information
  9. Intuitive interface for faculty, reducing the need for training

Since last July, the working relationship with Instructure has met the expectations of the OEI that a partnership would be primary in the work. There have been several items on the OEI list that need to be added to what Canvas was able to do when adopted. One example is that the need for a CCC community space within the Canvas system was clearly articulated by the CCMS Committee.

When Canvas was adopted, the community functionality was limited to within a specific instance or within the larger worldwide Canvas system. The CCMS Committee requested that there be a CCC community space where faculty and staff would be able to share effective practices for using the system and for teaching online in general. In May, Instructure added that functionality.

CCC Faculty Report Positive Experiences

Of the 84 colleges, five were already Canvas users and all were very positive in their choice of the system. The new colleges that are in the adoption process report similar positive activities as those first five did when interviewed as part of the selection process. The most common thing the OEI staff hear about is how easy Canvas is to use and about the good experiences faculty have in converting and refreshing their courses as they migrate courses to the new system.

The expectation is that at least 90 colleges will be using Canvas by the end of 2016. The potential for collecting important information about student online learning needs across the system is enormous. Sharing effective practices in online teaching and learning is greatly enabled by the colleges using the same system. The system is available for use by face-to-face classes as well as online and will allow for communication of academic and student support resources and course-specific resources to all students across the system.

It’s an exciting time for the California Community Colleges that are choosing to work together to enable a robust learning experience for students. For information and resources regarding the selection and implementation of Canvas, please visit CCCOnlineEd.org/technology-resources/canvas-ccms/.


Pat James is Executive Director of the
California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative