CSU and California Community Colleges Partner on a Tool to Find...

Digital Learning

CSU and California Community Colleges Partner on a Tool to Find Transferable Online Courses

By Sydney Johnson     May 30, 2018

CSU and California Community Colleges Partner on a Tool to Find Transferable Online Courses

Two of the largest higher-education systems in the country are partnering to pilot an online course finder tool to increase students’ access to 10,000 online and transferable courses.

The year-long initiative, called Finish Faster!, launches this month for students enrolled in a California State University or California Community College, together which serve nearly 2.6 million learners.

“This collaboration with CSU gives both systems the opportunity to better serve our state's students so they can complete their higher education goals even faster,” Alice Perez, vice chancellor of Academic Affairs for the California Community College system, said in a prepared statement.

Students may use the course finder to finish CSU breadth or general-education requirements during the summer to help them graduate on time. At the community college level, students could take online courses from either a California community college or a CSU in order to more quickly meet requirements to transfer or complete an associate's degree.

Students already had the option to take courses from other California state institutions for transfer credit. Gerry Hanley, assistant vice chancellor for academic technology services at CSU, says that the tool is intended to make that process faster by cutting down the time it takes students to search for courses they need.

“When you have half a million students in the CSU system, there are going to be some semesters where a campus may not be able to provide enough seats in the courses for all the students,” says Hanley. The goal is to make it easier for students leverage both college systems to get the online courses they need to graduate on time.

California community colleges have also struggled in the past to help students get the courses they need to finish on time. A report by the Public Policy Institute of California found in 2013 that nearly 600,000 students could not enroll in classes after budget cuts that led to reduced staffing and slashed course offerings.

Legislative proposals to turn to massive open online courses and other third-party learning providers to step in to fill those gaps with online courses were met with opposition from faculty members skeptical of the for-profit providers, Inside Higher Ed reported.

The tool would instead be used to help facilitate a transfer of courses from campuses that have not reached full capacity and connect open seats to students at other campuses where a particular course isn’t available.

“These are all California State classes or California community college classes taught by our faculty in our curriculum under our accreditation,” Hanley explains. “The tool just helps students find the high-quality education that we have available.”

The course finder is hosted on Quottly, a San Francisco-based startup that dubs itself a “Kayak for college courses.” Quottly was founded in 2015 and claims to host more than 2 million transferable online courses from 700 colleges. Students outside of the CSU or California community college systems can use the platform to find courses for free, or can choose to pay $34 to apply to enroll directly through the platform.

The partnership provides CSU and community college students a customized version of the Quottly platform, where students can search for courses based on specific college requirements. Students using the course finder will be able to search based on course subject matter, transfer requirements and general-education requirements. Search results then show course titles, credit amount, term dates, tuition costs and other section details.

According to a press announcement, more than 118,000 of the CSU system’s 484,000 students took an online course in the fall of 2017. California community college is the country’s largest higher-education system, serving more than 2.1 million students at 114 campuses—plus a recently proposed fully-online campus. Nearly 860,000 California community college students take at least one online course annually.

Finish Faster! is a part of CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025, which launched in 2016 and aims to increase the four-year freshmen graduation rate in the system from 23 percent (2017) to 40 percent by 2025, and to increase transfer four-year graduation rates from 75 percent (2017) to 85 percent in 2025. In addition to increasing online course options, the Graduation Initiative 2025 includes hiring more tenure-track faculty and academic advisors across CSU’s 23 campuses, and connecting more eligible students to financial aid.

Hanley hopes the one-year pilot will help his team answer questions such as where students and from what campuses are looking for, which courses are the most in demand, and how many students are using the enrollment tool through Quottly rather than enrolling directly through a campus website.

CSU and California community college paid approximately $47,600 for Quottly’s services, which will cover registration fees on the platform for the first 1,400 students, according to Hanley. He adds that students can also choose to find courses on Quottly and enroll through a campus website instead, avoiding Quottly’s registration fee.

In March, Quottly won the SXSW EDU startup Launch competition and in 2017 the company raised $100,000 in seed funding from the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York City.

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