Michigan Colleges Online (previously called the Michigan Community College Virtual Learning Collaborative) is an MCCA Center of Excellence that began in 1997, with the infrastructure significantly expanded in 2014 to increase functionality. The mission of Michigan Colleges Online is to connect the teaching and student support capacity of Michigan community colleges so learners can access affordable, high-quality learning experiences whenever and wherever desired.
The MCO collaborative allows students from anywhere in Michigan and beyond to take any one of the 1,200+ online courses listed in the online catalog located at www.micollegesonline.org.
Online learning staff can access MCO specific information such as initiatives, reports, and resources through the MCO Member website.
The MCO Advisory Council consists of the representatives identified by the president of each member community college to assist in the development of the operational policies and procedures required to realize the strategic objectives of the collaborative. The MCO representative is also responsible for directing the activities on campus related to MCO enrollments, etc.
The MCO conducts a survey of member institutions focused on various areas of their distance education programs. Information gathered allows colleges to benchmark and track their programs and services for faculty and students.
A list of agreements that were created by MCO member institutions and appropriate professional organizations are used to guide the work of the MCO shared enrollment collaborative. These agreements are available on the MCO Member Overview page.
During the 1995-96 academic year, the Michigan Community College Association (MCCA) established a Trustee/President Taskforce on Statewide Services to address issues relating to the ongoing concern on the part of community college leaders for under-served students throughout the state. The Taskforce Report presented its report in the Spring of 1996 which included a specific recommendation for the use of technology to extend educational opportunities to those residents who do not reside in a community college service district. In September 1996, Washtenaw Community College, as part of the conclusion of their participation in CoNDUIT, hosted a conference for the community college leadership to consider issues pertaining to virtual education initiatives. At this conference, the MCCA Presidents’ Technology-mediated Instruction Taskforce created a Staff Taskforce to study and make recommendations for developing a Michigan Virtual Community College.
The Staff Taskforce was to be comprised of one representative from each college, appointed by the President. The group met monthly using five interactive video classrooms scattered around the state. To facilitate between-meeting discussion, a shared resource environment was created on the World Wide Web along with a Conferencing On the Web environment and a listserver. During the first few months, the Staff Taskforce began an audit of the Intercollegiate Programmatic Partnerships, identified and assessed other statewide audits of technology and distance instruction, and struggled with concerns raised by creating a virtual community college. In particular, would that entity become the equivalent of a 29th community college, conferring degrees and competing for state funds?
At the December 1996 meeting of the MCCA Presidents, a new Mission statement was drafted, a set of core beliefs established, and the project was named the Michigan Community College Virtual Learning Collaborative (MCCVLC). It was agreed that developing a collaborative network open to the participation of all 28 community colleges was the goal, rather than the development of a new community college which might be viewed as competition for the existing traditional community colleges. Further, it was recognized that learning and provision of student services would be the focal points of the network.
On March 25, 1997 the MCCA Presidents and Trustees met to consider formally investing in the development of the MCCVLC. The initiative was approved unanimously and an assessment fee was levied according to a state formula to fund the early development stages of the MCCVLC. The Staff Taskforce spent the summer defining a shared vision statement, converting the results of the Intercollegiate Partnership survey to an electronic form, and refining and populating the technology-mediated distance education course online database. The latter was placed on the World Wide Web along with project information and links to all 28 community colleges.
In September 1997 the community colleges began the design of strategic and business plans for the development of the MCCVLC as well as identifying funding resources to achieve this development. In early November, a seven-person, lead team was established to complete the final planning, in preparation for presentations in June 1998 to the MCCA Executive Committee, Presidents' Committee, and potential funding sources.
During the 1998 Summer Institute, the MCCA Presidents and Trustees approved the MCCVLC Strategic and Business Plans and appointed Michael Wahl as Executive Director of the "Collaborative".
In September 1998 the Michigan Community College Association identified members of the MCCVLC Governing Board. That board, comprised of four community college presidents and four community college trustees to oversee and develop policies for the MCCVLC. During this time frame, each Michigan community college designated a person to serve on the VLC Advisory Council, and represent their respective colleges in the development of operations and procedures for the MCCVLC.
One of the first items of business was to secure funding for the future development of the MCCVLC. To augment the self-assessment fee approved by the college Presidents, the Michigan Virtual University pledged a grant of $2.25 million to assist in start-up costs.
During fall 1998 and winter 1999, the MCCVLC worked on developing the policies, procedures, and website for a pilot project beginning in the summer 1999. Those policies were drafted by the appropriate professional community college organization that has expertise in the field. Therefore, the Financial Aid Consortium Agreement was developed by the Financial Aid Officers and the Tuition Revenue sharing model was developed by the Michigan Community College Business Officers Association. The use of various professional organizations in the development of such policies has made a significant impact on the success of the collaborative.
In the spring of 1999, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded a grant to the MCCVLC to assist in the collaborative development of programs of study designed to meet the needs of improving the skills of the Michigan workforce. This four-year grant project will also provide funding for professional development training for Michigan community college faculty and staff.
In the summer of 1999, the Michigan community college trustees & presidents approved the MCCVLC Memorandum of Understanding which defined the purpose of the collaborative along and how each member can participate. The MCCVLC also began a pilot project with 12 colleges offering a total of 47 courses on the MCCVLC web site. There were 45 confirmed enrollments using the new MCCVLC online registration system.
During the Winter of 2000 the first collaborative programs were approved for funding from the W.K.Kellogg Foundation grant. Those first programs to be developed and offered in a collaborative manner among the partnering institutions included: Banking/Finance Certificate, MOUS Certification Preparation Project, Criminal Justice Transfer Degree, Diagnostic Medical Sonography Certificate and Applied Science Degree, Network Administrator Certificate, Nursing - Associates Degree, Social Work Technician Certificate and Web Administrator Certificate. This first round of projects includes fifteen Michigan community colleges.
During the 2000-01 academic year, the VLC Advisory Council began to look at the quality issue of the distance education offerings and recommended the adoption of a set of Program Guidelines that each institution will agree to when developing and offering a program through the MCCVLC. On July 20, 2001, the MCCA Board of Directors approved the Program Guidelines as an addendum to the original Memorandum of Understanding.
In late 2002, the MCCVLC was awarded a FIPSE (Funds for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education) grant which focused on collaboratively developed online student academic support services. This three-year project brought together college professionals in the collaborative design of high-quality online services: orientation for online learners, off-campus access to library resources, online academic advising, online tutoring, access to test proctoring, and help desk services. These six areas were selected for development because they are seen as critical influences to student success in online courses, the expertise existed to effectively modify these services for online access, and because each was developed and deployed more efficiently through collaboration. In addition to extending access to online students, the development of these online services provides additional access options for all students, regardless of their varied abilities or disabilities, and is also being used by colleges outside of the state.