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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 26, 2014
Former College Employee Takes Vision to State Level
During his time as Director of Distance Learning at College of the Canyons, John Makevich oversaw the growth of one of the most comprehensive online programs available to California’s community college students.
The right people took notice, as Makevich has since moved on from the college to serve as the Director of Strategic Planning and Operations for the ambitious statewide Online Education Initiative (OEI).
Distance learning has been offered to community college students in California for more than 34 years. Today, the phrase “distance education” is most commonly associated with online education, although in the early days distance courses were primarily offered via radio and television correspondence.
In 2013, the Instructional Technology Council, a branch of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), reported that “adequate student services for distance-education students” was its greatest challenge.
Personally mandated by Governor Jerry Brown, the OEI was created to address this need for reform at the state level.
Just seven years after stepping onto the COC campus in Santa Clarita, Makevich finds himself at the center of this effort.
“In online education I see tremendous value, especially with respect to our California community colleges,” Makevich said. “Our students need access to education in a variety of ways, and when the opportunity came up to play this role at the state level… it was really exciting to me.”
A former recipient of the “New Visions” and “Employee of the Year” awards while at COC, Makevich’s previous experience with the OEI dates back to his time as the chair of the organization’s Steering Committee.
“I’ve always known John to be a top-notch leader,” said Joseph Moreau, OEI Executive Sponsor and Vice Chancellor of Technology at the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.
“When he came on board to the committee, he brought us together in a way that was enormously productive. There were about 27 of us, not including staff — so getting everyone on the same page like that was no small task.”
According to Moreau, more than 140,000 online classes are offered to community college students statewide, and while online education has been an increasingly popular form of learning for a number of years, climbing participation rates make now the logical time to refine the existing formula.
The OEI’s primary goal is to increase the total number of students earning associate degrees and transferring to four-year institutions. Other issues the program will address include increasing educational opportunities available to underrepresented and disabled students, decreasing the total cost of education and increasing the convenience of online coursework.
A primary talking point of Makevich’s was the improvement of retention in online classes.
The 2013 Distance Education Report published by the California Community Colleges (CCC) Chancellor’s Office includes a detailed breakdown of the methods of interaction between students and teachers in online courses. Statistically speaking, the report illustrates that online retention rates are higher when faculty-student interaction is direct and frequent.
“Typically, online success and completion rates are somewhat lower than in face-to-face classes,” Makevich said. “Our charge with the Online Education Initiative is to improve these success and completion rates, so we can demonstrate how remarkably successful students can be in getting where they need to while taking online courses.”
With the CCC system accommodating 2.4 million students, as well as the $16.9 million allocated to planning, coordination and support for distance education in the 2013-14 fiscal year — it’s safe to say Makevich will be spending his time away from COC buried in work.
Meanwhile, there’s a large pair of sneakers that needs to be filled in Santa Clarita.
“John has been an incredibly valuable and creative employee,” said James Glapa-Grossklag, Dean of Educational Technology and Distance Learning at COC.
“During his time here, John was honored with numerous awards, made the transition to administrator, and demonstrated exceptional vision and spirit — a big part of that is his strong dedication to his own personal growth.”
Luckily for the college, Makevich still maintains a close relationship with his former colleagues.
“I have many colleagues and friends here at COC,” Makevich said. “I’ll regularly be keeping them up to date with how the project is going, and how it can benefit College of the Canyons.”