As a top Latino-serving institution, San Jose City College (SJCC) has a diverse student population filled with first-time college students, immigrants, and working professionals returning to the classroom to gain new skills. With the coronavirus pandemic raging, SJCC needed to move its diverse student population into a remote-only learning environment.
SJCC has already successfully used a blended learning approach in its Technest program, a partnership between SJCC and edX leveraging online courses from MITx and UCBerkeleyX to offer an accelerated computer science program intended to increase equity, diversity, and opportunity for SJCC’s students, who live in the Silicon Valley area with its booming tech industry. The program took a blended approach of online and in-person learning. Next, the college needed to take its experience with that program and scale it across the larger campus as an example of how to leverage online content for program continuity.
When it launched its computer science program, SJCC used the edX platform, which included foundational computer science MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). SJCC chose the edX platform because the well-regarded computer science content from institutions like MIT and UC Berkeley meant that SJCC could offer its students access to instruction and content that would be seen as highly credible by Silicon Valley companies. Secondly, by using online courses as a key part of the program, SJCC could not only extend access to the program to more students but give those students the flexibility to learn in an asynchronous environment, which was important for many learners who had other demands on their time that would make attending an all in-person program challenging.
The blended learning course has worked like a flipped classroom. Students can watch the edX lectures, complete problem sets, engage in discussion and take assessments on their own time, and then use the in-person class time (or personalized remote time) to get help. This allows students to proceed at their own pace--whether they progress without interruption or need more time and faculty support in some sections. And because the edX platform acts as a virtual TA, taking care of lectures, grading and other time-intensive activities, this allows faculty to focus their efforts in a more effective, efficient way and ultimately serve more students.
“There is hard work involved in transitioning your course from in-person to online. The sheer number of practice problems and finger exercises that you want students to have access to so they can be practicing the things that they’re learning, you need to spend some time creating those and creating them in a learning management system so that students can access it on their own time, and the assignments can be auto-graded. That is a benefit of using existing digital materials, like the courses from edX. It decreases some of that effort," said Mark Branom, Faculty at San Jose City College
By having a resilient and flexible approach to teaching and learning in place that incorporates online courses, SJCC already had a system that supported business continuity and allowed them to make the transition to a remote-only learning environment with less disruption. Additionally, by already having access to Online Campus, SJCC could quickly and easily provide more resources and support for faculty, provide a better student learning experience, and accommodate more students and keep them on the path to successful outcomes.
“Not having to worry about doing the grading because the system does the grading for me lets me focus on helping the students figure out how to do the assignment and making sure that students are on track. In the past, I was spending part of that time making up the exam or writing up the exercises," Branom said.