District expands online education

CCC, DVC and LMC have joined the CVC Exchange.


California Virtual Campus

Graphic from the CVC website illustrating colleges across the state involved in the Exchange.

Sarina Grossi, Editor-in-Chief

For thousands of college students, not being able to register for the right class is a dismal reality. Whether the class isn’t available at their campus, doesn’t fit into their busy schedule or they are missing the proper prerequisites, the possibility of not graduating on your own terms looms over the registration process. But the Contra Costa Community College District’s inclusion in the California Virtual Campus Online Education Initiative has the chance to change this reality.

Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College and Los Medanos College is part of a select group of 15 community colleges known as “Teaching Colleges” on the CVC Exchange, a cross enrollment platform available in California. The platform allows students to enroll in more than 10,000 online classes from over 115 colleges without additional applications. It also offers 90 fully online Associate Degrees for Transfer pathways and 80 certificate programs.

It’s innovative… but it’s also very student centered. It helps students get to their goals more quickly, get into their careers more quickly,” said the District Dean of Distance Education Joanna Miller.

The main appeal to the CVC Exchange is that it allows students within our district to enroll in classes in other colleges and students not in our district to enroll in classes within the three campuses. With low enrollment across California community colleges, the Exchange gives both students the opportunity to learn and colleges the opportunity to help more students succeed. And the open options within the Exchange also can help increase engagement and retention, with more student pathways completed.

It’s innovative… but it’s also very student centered. It helps students get to their goals more quickly, get into their careers more quickly.

— Joanna Miller

“While our local community is familiar with the quality courses that we offer our students, the Exchange provides an opportunity for LMC to share our courses and online opportunities with students across the state,” said April Nogarr, the former Distance Education coordinator at LMC. “Students are no longer limited by geographical location and their opportunities to enroll in the exciting courses that we offer.”

The Exchange is groundbreaking in terms of accessibility. In the wake of the transition to fully online courses back in 2020, students need a flexible online space. Whether a disability makes in-person classes difficult, transportation to campus is not possible or even just a class being full, the CVC Exchange guarantees that students have access to multiple options, further helping them reach graduation goals.

“For a long time in online education, we have known that it provided an option to students who would otherwise have to drop out or wait,” said Miller, “now going forward, we know that having the flexibility that an online class or a couple classes in your schedule can offer can help students stay on their path, stay in college, and complete more quickly.”

CCC and DVC joined the Exchange in 2018, with LMC joining the campuses later in 2020. With the help of an IT team, the campuses went live on the platform with course selection and later opened it further to allow students to enroll in classes without extra steps. The IT team also worked out dozens of challenges over the span of three years, including matching college requirements, admissions and financial aid issues. 

With the problems ironed out, the CVC Exchange allows students to have both transcripts and financial aid coordinated, meaning that you no longer have to send special requests for transcripts and can also use any financial aid you might have at your home college. All of this under federal privacy laws such as FERPA that does not allow your information to be public.

“I like that we have removed some of the pain points of attending college for people who are interested in going to college, but maybe because of distance, location or are just working can’t do that as well,” said Dr. Janith Norman, the LMC Distance Education coordinator.

The “Teaching College” status helps expand the campuses’ presence on the platform, with a preference to these colleges on student searches. Along with this status, the District is focusing on specified “Quality Reviewed” badges, indicating classes that have quality material, necessary accessibility tools for students with disabilities and student services such as online tutoring. Other badges including the “Zero Textbook Cost” icon give the online classes an organized approach to help students.

“Through this process, more courses are going to be organized so students can have the best opportunities for learning and being successful on that journey. To me that’s exciting,” said Norman.

The campuses’ inclusion in the Exchange is designed to serve students by breaking down barriers, but it also encourages student voices. The district looks at student demand, such as the recent desire to keep prioritizing online education, and builds the courses on the exchange accordingly. Students actively determine the ever-adapting modality and mechanics of online distance education.

“Providing quality, accessible online courses… is a priority. The CVC Exchange supports and encourages faculty to create courses that meet required accessibility standards,” said Nogarr.

The CVC Exchange is open to all students currently enrolled in the California Community College system. If you would like to learn more about the Exchange, visit the CVC website.