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West Los Angeles College works on statewide online project

CULVER CITY — West Los Angeles College has been selected to work on the development of the online education portal that will increase access to online courses and to help shape a common student assessment tool to be used by all California community colleges. West L.A. College is one of 24 colleges throughout the state involved in the project.

“West is an outstanding choice to participate in these initiatives,” college President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh said. “The college is a diverse urban institution that is already providing local leadership in these areas.

“Successful implementation of these programs will facilitate student access to core courses on their way to completing degrees and certificates and to transferring to a university or obtaining well-paid jobs. Whether online or in a traditional class, students will have access to high quality learning experiences and the necessary supports to succeed,”

West L.A. College was asked to help develop the standards, operational policies and an access portal for online classes that will be offered to all participating colleges. Fifty-six colleges applied to participate in this development group.

The goal of the Online Education Initiative is to have the pilot colleges launch and implement a sophisticated online education system to increase student access to online courses and to improve student retention and success rates. The initiative is also working to make it possible for a student based at one college to take an online class at any other college without having to go through a separate admissions process and/or being required to have transcripts from the second college go through special evaluations at the home college.

West L.A. College already has one of the largest and most recognized online education programs within the state. Twenty-five percent of the college’s instruction is provided online.

The quality of the program, led by Academic Dean Eric Ichon, was noted in the college’s recent accreditation re-affirmation. In fact, West L.A. is unusual in that the success rate of students in online classes is almost identical to that in traditional classroom-based courses. A spokesperson for the college said. At most colleges, the online success rate is lower.

The 24 colleges participating in the initiative have been divided into three groups: Official Launch, Student Readiness and Online Tutoring. West L.A. is in the Student Readiness group, which is looking at how to help students succeed in online classes. The college, for example, provides a brief seminar to help students understand what to expect and how to effectively function in the online format.

Lack of a common assessment test is often a frustration for community college students who frequently will attend more than one college over the course of completing a degree, certificate and/or university transfer requirements.

Multiple assessments mean students must take a test at each community college they attend or go through a protracted process of having their test results from one college evaluated by another. Currently, more than 30 different assessment tools are used throughout the state.

The assessment is used to determine a student’s level of competency in math and English. The student’s score will have a bearing on which courses he or she may select.

Most classes (in and outside of math and English) require a particular level of competency in one of those two disciplines. A student with a low score may be required to take a pre-college level math and/or English class before being allowed to enroll in, for example, chemistry or anthropology.

West L.A. College is being asked to develop and administer an effective and efficient common assessment system and web-portal “that utilizes computer-adaptive testing methods, diagnostic features, and robust administrative tools to accurately assess students in English, math, and English as a second language,” said Patricia Banday, director of the student success and support program office at West L.A. College.

The assessment will also strive to be aligned with both curriculum at the colleges and the state’s Common Core curriculum for elementary and secondary schools.

Fall 2015 is the target launch of the new tool by the pilot participants. Serving on the state committee are Banday,English Division Chair Fran Leonard and English as a second language professor Nancy Sander.

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