This morning the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about City College of San Francisco (CCSF) having to repay the state of California $39 million due to an audit of distance education courses.
City College of San Francisco, struggling for every dollar it can muster, must repay the state nearly $39 million because it can’t prove that instructors taught thousands of students in hundreds of online classes from 2011 to 2014, an audit revealed.
City College has been unable to verify teaching about 16,000 students in 587 online courses — from Accent Improvement to Cardiorespiratory Emergencies — over the three-year period, according to the state-commissioned audit that ended in September.
It took a little bit of digging during a conference call (shh, don’t tell the hosts), but it looks like the issue was that the vast majority of faculty teaching online or hybrid courses chose to not use the centralized Moodle LMS system despite district policy that the LMS is the official record of student and faculty interaction.
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CCSF itself noticed the issue and requested an audit through the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, and the state commissioned a CPA firm – Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Co. LLP (VTD) – to lead a compliance report. The results were delivered November 2.
Based on our interviews we noted that the District began moving more towards online learning prior to 2011. As part of that movement to provide education in the methods students were requesting, the District began a defined process to determine how to standardize the management of these types of courses across its operations. The District decided to use the Learning Management System (LMS) software to centralize the tracking and management of these types of course.
The courses included not just purely online versions but also hybrid courses combining face-to-face and structured online components.
In 2014, the District became aware that not all Distance Education courses claimed for apportionment had shells set up in the LMS system between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2014. Without that shell there was no centralized system of providing or maintaining records of information students needed in order to participate in the courses. Individual instructors may have had their own methodologies to communicate necessary information to the students, however, if a shell was not established in LMS, the information was not maintained in a manner in which documents could be accessed at this time.
The official review was based on Full Time Equivalent Student (FTES) counts since that is the basis of how the state funds the college. The findings:
We’re not talking about an isolated problem with some faculty forgetting or refusing to use the official LMS. 92% of all courses (based on FTES count) did not comply with collegiate policy, and therefore there are no official participation records ensuring students understood the course requirements or that faculty interacted with students.
Remember that CCSF is under tremendous financial pressure and almost lost its accreditation due to a stunning lack of fiscal oversight. But on the positive side, also remember that CCSF noticed this problem and self-reported. Due to the financial burden, the state is letting CCSF repay the funds over the next 10 years at $3.9 million per year.
For those wishing to read the full report: