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Calbright to Be Part of New Department Of Education Funded Community College Research Center

Calbright is thrilled to be one of nine educational institutions in the United States to be part of a $10 million Department of Education and Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University’s Teachers College study to develop better models of online learning.

The nine educational institutions in the new Department of Education study — of which Calbright is the only entirely online and competency based college — will work to develop new approaches to online learning that will help students get the most out of the educational opportunities that technology can provide.  Simply giving students more technology isn’t helpful if it doesn’t foster the optimal conditions under which students learn.  

“We are excited to partner with Columbia University’s Teachers College and the Department of Education to explore and identify innovative methods to support Calbright’s students,” said Tamika Connor, Calbright’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. “Our unique model of online career education and robust support services for adult learners is critical to reaching students where they are and providing quality opportunities for them to create a better future for themselves and their families.    

The point isn’t that technology can’t transform education for the better — of course it can. The point is that this doesn’t happen automatically. As we’ve all learned from the pandemic, simply moving courses designed for an in-person classroom to an online medium doesn’t create a strong educational experience for students.  

The new center, created through this study, will conduct research on best practices in online instruction, learning, and education technology, create professional guidelines, and develop toolkits that can support colleges and educators.

“Some of the early studies of online learning found that students who were less well-prepared academically struggled more in online courses,” said Rebecca Griffiths of SRI Education, who is a principal investigator for the grant. “[E]vidence suggests that students taking online courses may need more scaffolding and help to learn how to manage their learning process than students who are in face to face settings with more of a structured educational environment,” she told EdScoop.

That could look like a new app to help support study habits for online classes, a new kind of curriculum or instructional cadence, or new kinds of student support services, among other approaches.  

“Each student faces different barriers to higher education and also comes to Calbright with their own set of skills and experiences,” said Pamela Sanborn, Interim Vice President for Learning and Instruction at Calbright. “The great advantage of our model is that we can reach students where they are and tailor programs to meet the needs of both students and employers. This takes time and consideration, and we look forward to sharing our experience across the California Community Colleges system and the higher education sector as part of this initiative and into the future.”