Dear MSJC Faculty,

We all understand that this a very busy time of the year. Thanks for taking the time to glance through some important news and updates regarding Distance Education at MSJC.

  • Your three current DE Coordinators—Belinda Heiden-Scott, John Seed and Tamara Smith—will all be stepping down at the end of Spring term. We have enjoyed serving you.
  • A new single DE Coordinator will be taking over beginning next Fall. This coordinator will cover both campuses, and will have 80% release time. Expect to hear more from Micah Orloff as things move forward.
  • A major project, a 54 page fully updated Distance Ed Plan covering the years 2015-19 has been completed and has been forwarded to the MSJC Academic Senate for review.
  • The DE Plan calls for a physical location (office) to serve DE Faculty, a DE Coordinator with 100% release time and a Full-Time online course designer, to be hired by Spring 2016.
  • As the DE Plan notes: the MSJC District has been designated as a “pilot” district for the California Online Education Initiative (OEI). It is anticipated that one or more MSJC courses may be used in the rollout of the OEI program in fall, 2015. It is also anticipated that the MSJC District will continue to collaborate with OEI as it offers a Common Course Management system and more online classes to its offerings.
  • Because MSJC is near the limit of its ability to house face-to-face campuses, it is anticipated that more DE courses will be offered in coming semesters. Department Chairs should think about how this would be best accomplished.
  • The DE Coordinators recently made the following recommendation to the MSJC Curriculum Office regarding class caps: We recommend that class caps for DE Courses be determined as follows:
    – For courses with face to face caps of 30 or less, the DE course cap will be the same as the face to face class.
    – For all other courses the DE enrollment cap will be a maximum of 30 students.
    – Any instructor teaching a DE course for the first time will have a one time enrollment cap of 20 students for every new     course taught.
  • Finally, we would like to offer thanks and acknowledgement to a few key people:

Thank you to Micah Orloff for guidance and support.

Thank you to Suzanne Uhl who is preparing an OEI course for the Fall.

Thank you to Amrik Randhawa, Wendy Orcajo and Carlos Tovares for their assistance in drafting the 2015-19 DE Plan

Thank you to Rhonda Nishimoto for sitting in on many hours of online OEI meetings.

Thank you to Lorraine-Slattery Farrell, Del Helms and Tamara Smith for all the time they spent in Sacramento.

Thank you to all those who participated in our online Focus Groups.

Thank you to all members of the MSJC ETC.

Thank you to all MSJC DE faculty for your professionalism and support.

The California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) announced its intent to award Instructure Inc. the contract to provide an online course management system and related services to community colleges statewide.

Support for Instructure’s Canvas system was nearly unanimous among the OEI’s Common Course Management System (CCMS) Committee members, with overwhelming support from student participants, officials said. Canvas is a course management platform that is currently being used by more than 1,000 colleges, universities and school districts across the country.

More at this link…

You can try out Canvas at this link…

Dear MSJC Educators,

Here are some facts and figures that you may find interesting:

  • There are approximately 134 distinct MSJC courses that are approved for Distance Ed.
  • In Fall of 2014 there were 65 hybrid sections and 220 fully online sections offered.
  • There are approximately 150 faculty members involved in online teaching: this includes both full-time and part-time faculty.
  • 37% of online sections are taught by full-time faculty. In comparison, 21% of face-to-face sections are taught by full-time faculty.
  • In Fall of 2014 33% of MSJC Students took DE courses. This accounted for approximately 18% of the college’s term FTE.
  • DE Class size, as set by the curriculum committee is whatever the face-to-face class size is, not to exceed 35 students.

E-mail communication now plays a very important role in teacher/student interactions for both Online and On-Campus courses. At MSJC, each student has an e-mail account, and when instructors use e-mail as a tool to notify students about important matters, they tend to assume that students are reading and receiving their e-mail.

Guess what? In many cases, students are not getting their MSJC e-mail…

In a recent focus group organized by MSJC’s Distance Educators none of the students who were interviewed  said that they actively read or received their MSJC e-mail. Also, none of the students who participated in the focus group had arranged to have their MSJC e-mail forwarded to their personal e-mail accounts.

In other words, when you send out an e-mail to an entire class changing the date of a field trip, reminding students of a due date, or notifying them that you will be absent few of them may actually be receiving and reading what you send. Who knew?

To fix this situation, one of the first things you should do during the new semester is instruct your students on how to have their e-mail forwarded. On the page linked below you will find a short video that shows how forwarding can be set up.

Using Rules to Forward Microsoft Web Mail

You should post this link and video in your online classes and consider asking all your students to set up mail forwarding. Even better, ask students to set up forwarding and respond to an e-mail you send to their MSJC account before class begins. The information in this video can also help you have your own MSJC e-mail forwarded to a  personal account if you wish.

This summer I devoted some time to developing a fully online, no cost virtual textbook for my online art appreciation students. The timing seemed right: the cost of the conventional text had risen to over $150 while at the same time the availability of suitable high-quality online resources had clearly increased.

To create the text I used Google’s free “blogger” service. To make sure that the content of my virtual text would satisfy the legal course outline of record for my course, I located and vetted content that closely mirrored the approved text.The units of my virtual text approximate the chapters of a conventional art appreciation text. The blog format makes it easy to add or correct links as needed, and the text appears in my online course as a link that is available outside of Blackboard.

The art history field is full of remarkable resources, and about half of the content I included comes from the Khan Academy which has absorbed a wonderful multimedia textbook called “Smarthistory.” The content they provide includes both written content (comparable to a text) and short videos that feature images and conversations between two art historians. As our online regulations require, these videos are all captioned.

If you want to view and visit my virtual text you can find it at the link below:


At any rate, I adopted the virtual text and used it throughout this past term. Now that the class is winding down I asked my students what they thought of it. Here are some of their comments:

“I liked the online virtual text; it helped with the cost of the semester, plus it was very clear and well thought out.”

“The class was designed really well, especially the virtual textbook. Usually, the textbooks are really hard to find and purchase and are really extremely expensive, but it was awesome they we had a virtual one.”

“I did prefer the virtual textbook to printed text. What a great idea!”

“The virtual text was great. It was SO nice to not have to worry about buying a book (Thank You, my bank account appreciates this) and I think it was honestly more helpful than a textbook because the sources used were interesting and educational.”

“Regarding the virtual textbook, I thought it was a definite plus about this class! I love having our textbook online because I don’t have to spend extra money and the textbook is tailored to our class. I feel like our online reading and watching segments were a condensed form of lectures.”

At any rate, that gives you an idea how students responded. There were no negative comments about the virtual text, although one student said that he missed the feeling of a book in his hands, but liked the virtual content.

The success of this experiment makes me want to ask all of my MSJC peers a serious question: are there high quality online resources that might supplement or even fully replace your current textbook?

I hope you will add comments to this blog to let me know what you think of my experiment, and also let me know if a virtual text might be in the future for your online students.




MSJC Faculty are invited to participate in a webinar on open educational resources offered by CoolforEd.

COOLforEd (http://coolfored.org) was established through California state legislation seeking to make higher education more affordable by providing faculty and students with access to open and low-cost instructional materials. Working with the California Open Educational Resources Council (COERC), COOLforEd features peer-reviewed open textbooks for the 50 highest impact college courses. In addition, best practices of instructors and their students who have successfully adopted open textbooks in these courses are captured in multi-media faculty showcases.

Participants in this webinar will get an overview of the statewide effort to curate and promote open educational resources (OER) for the highest enrolled college courses and learn how to get involved in this project. Discover peer-reviewed open textbooks that you can adopt to ensure that all of your students have access to instructional materials on the first day of class.

COOLforEd is a service of the California State University-MERLOT program. Partial funding provided by the State of California, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Dear Faculty,

An ETC subcommittee which is working on developing a new, multi-year Distance Education Plan will be holding two Focus Groups on Friday, November 14th. The first group will consist of faculty who teach online, and the second group is for students.

Can you let your students know that their ideas and opinions are needed. We hope to get their ideas about how MSJC students can become more successful on online courses.

You can post an announcement in your online classes or mention this Focus Group to students who you know have taken several MSJC online and/or hybrid courses.

Here is the info:

Date: Friday, November 14

Place: MVC Room 950

Time: 11 to Noon

Students who would like to attend, please contact Belinda Heiden-Scott:



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