COCC board promotes, awards, prepares to replace Blackboard

Tenure, emeritus, and replacing Blackboard on the table for the March board meeting and the President's Report.

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Fredrik Finney-Jordet/The Broadside

Central Oregon Community College’s Board met on March 10 to discuss matters including the replacement of Blackboard, the college’s digital learning system. They also covered the President’s Report, in which staff were awarded promotions, tenure, emeritus status and sabbaticals.

The pandemic and the need to host the meeting online disrupted the normal fanfare of the event; the board applauded over Zoom as six staff members were awarded tenure. Soon after, they received knocks on their doors from college staff waiting outside their residences for a text from Vice President of Instruction Dr. Betsy Julian, and were given their glass awards.

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Sabbaticals and emeritus status were then awarded to more digitally compressed applause. “It feels a little unceremonious through Zoom, doesn’t it” said Board Chair Erica Skatvold.

Discussed later in the meeting was the transition to a new “Learning Management System,” or the system the college uses for materials and online classes, currently Blackboard. In 2019, the college had begun looking into replacing the system, as the company that makes it were altering their system and dropping technical support for Blackboard, according to Dr. Betsy Julian. “The Academic Affairs Committee called together a task force to look into what our optins were, and they did an extensive review, both of the needs of students and faculty but also of what the other programs are that are out there,” said Julian.

The resulting conclusion was overwhelming support for a system called Canvas, according to Julian. “We had a number of faculty who have used Canvas at other schools and who have been begging us to make this change for a while,” she said. Additionally, COCC has the opportunity to “piggyback” on a state contract with Canvas, resulting in it being cheaper than Blackboard.

Canvas is a learning management system created by education technology company Instructure, and is currently used by Bend LaPine schools and by OSU Cascades. “The Canvas platform is…more flexible and more robust than what we are currently using” said Julian.

Blackboard and Canvas will need to run in parallel for a time while courses are transferred over, Julian mentioned.

The Board also discussed perspectives and strategies for tuition. This discussion included a review of the college’s current revenue and deliberation on how best to approach raising tuition in the future, between steady and incremental increases, avoiding raising it for as long as possible, and raising it to the highest extent. This was just a discussion and was not in reference to any motion to change the tuition at this time.

Recordings of COCC Board meetings can be viewed at the college’s Board of Directors webpage.

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