Calbright College: There’s a reason so few survive the Essentials course

5 replies
  1. Keith Hampson PhD
    Keith Hampson PhD says:

    Very useful review of the course. Thank you. The course is, indeed, a mess.

    Three items:

    You note that this ” . . . situation could be interpreted as demonstrating that Calbright College’s approach suffered from hubris and did not seek input from community college faculty, or it could be interpreted as showing that the enrollment (and cost-per-student) have been artificially harmed by poor design that theoretically is fixable.”

    It may be useful to remember that faculty is the one group that has done more to violate good design practices and site architecture – which the author of this piece highlights – during the last two decades of online higher education. Vendors traditionally design applications to allow individual educators to use the platform as they wish. Too often, this led to a “Where’s Waldo” quality of site design and student experience. Students spent as much time trying to figure out what was required of them, than actually learning. Asking faculty for input on information architecture isn’t a solution.

    Two . . . this half-hearted attempt at competency-based learning is par-for-the-course. Legtimate CBL remains rare. Many of the programs that adorn themselves with the language of CBL use only a handful of its characteristics – and for good reason: it’s labour-intensive and requires substantial changes to how the institution operates, the roles of educators, etc.

    Three . . . I wonder if the lack of accreditation isn’t a bigger factor behind the 12% completion rate. Certainly, poor design is a factor, but we’ve all seen badly designed (credit) courses with 90%- plus completion rates.

    • Phil Hill
      Phil Hill says:

      Hi Keith,

      You are right that faculty as a group have often violated good design practices, and I certainly don’t want to suggest ‘don’t try any design not controlled or led by faculty’. Let’s not forget that all faculty are not the same, however – some understand design principles, some don’t, but you can choose who to work with and how to include people in the design process. Calbright College seemed to go out of their way to not seek input from people who would have known better, and it shows.

      Agree on partial CBL being par for the course. I did find it interesting as a student that they 1) insisted I learn most of the terminology, yet 2) they ignored the basics (not just some details, but the basics of PLA and allowing assessment while skipping activities where feasible.

  2. Michael Berman
    Michael Berman says:

    Yes, all that, and your examples show that the writing is at a level that would be intimidating or even unreadable for some of the target audience. The word “rubric” is a great example of a word that means nothing to most people. It’s very disappointing and such a waste of an opportunity — and at just the moment that many people are out of work and have time and motivation to upgrade their skills.

  3. GalleryP
    GalleryP says:

    Thanks much for getting into the weeds on this. What a fiasco! How did they not even think of testing this with community college instructors or students? Weren’t there any adults in the room? This is the sort of nonsense that holds digital educational materials back. They were clearly in trouble when they didn’t choose to work through Canvas, which, among other things, would have given their students experience in an infrastructure in broad use in California.

    More generally, can’t various providers just agree on a reasonably common system of navigation? Books do that, but they are an anachronism these days. Hard to see how bespoke, confusing navigation provides any advantage to anyone. Tax dollars at work!

  4. Henry J Burnett
    Henry J Burnett says:

    I appreciate your detailed, precise analysis of the incredible flaws in the Calbright College and Career Essential Skills entry level course.

    The early leader ship at Calbright attempted to create something entirely different, totally separate and apart from the ongoing processes in the California Community Colleges.

    However, many professionals in Higher Education fully realized that reaching out to mid career individuals already is a central mission of the California Community Colleges.

    Perhaps that mission has been underfunded and underestimated compared to the transfer mission of the community colleges; however, the mission is certainly a key component of the CA CCs.

    Your detailed analysis of the incredibly fragmented course design is an indication of inexperienced individuals attempting to be professional educators.

    Calbright is a wasteful, inefficient duplication of effort. The funding should be redirected toward existing California Community Colleges.

Comments are closed.