Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Statement from CIO Tim Marhshall on Blackboard Problems

The following message from Chief Innovation Officer Tim Marshall was sent to the Chancellor's Cabinet, Academic Vice Presidents, the Faculty Council, and leadership at the LeCroy Center on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 10:36 am.:

This year we have suffered through a number of Blackboard (eCampus) system outages and a number of times where specific Blackboard functions were disabled by the vendor. Learning Management Systems are a core requirement for both online and face-to-face instruction, and the DCCCD places a high priority on these critical functions. I’d like to update you on some of the background regarding these issues:
  • The district is operating on the current Blackboard Learn application, provided to us as a Software as a Service which is hosted by the company. We have maintained current patch and upgrade status and have licensed it fully for our student population and storage requirements
  • We have experienced issues with the application, primarily due to the size of the district and the number of transactions during peak processing times. DCCCD is one of their largest customers, and issues we have had with our scale have not affected most of their customer base
  • District leadership have escalated the issues to Blackboard’s most senior management
  • As each incident has occurred, Blackboard has assigned dedicated teams to restore functionality. In some cases this has taken longer than we have expected
  • Our technical staff continues to work with Blackboard to condition their environment for our needs, but this remains a challenge
  • The district has adequate bandwidth for the service. The issues are embedded within the application software and database engine that Blackboard utilizes

Please bear with us as we continue to investigate the issues we have with Blackboard. The district has significant resources dedicated to the environment, and we are as frustrated as you are when they do not perform according to our requirements and expectations.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

UPDATED 7 AM WEDNESDAY - Official DCCFA Response to eCampus Outages

Since last week, faculty at all seven of the DCCCD colleges have reported numerous service and system interruptions and outages in the Blackboard/eCampus system.

In response to faculty concerns, DCCFA President Bill Hammerschlag and DCCFA Vice-President Matt Hinckley, on behalf of the DCCFA faculty council, met with DCCCD Chancellor Joe May and Executive Vice Chancellor Justin Lonon at noon Monday.

Chancellor May and EVC Lonon said they were equally frustrated by the repeated service and system interruptions and outages. Both said they have been in communication with Blackboard senior leadership, expressing that, as one of Blackboard’s top-five largest clients, DCCCD has a right to expect priority service, particularly given that the District subscribes to “premium” level support from Blackboard.
In a separate communication sent to college presidents and authorized for distribution to all stakeholders, DCCCD Chief Innovation Officer Tim Marshall said, “Please let everyone know that we are on the same version of Blackboard as other institutions. Bandwidth is not the issue. The main issue is with their ability to handle the number of transactions that our size of the district presents."
In addition, it may be that the District’s use of Blackboard – both for online courses and for face-to-face courses – has grown with a rapidity and to a scale that Blackboard did not know to anticipate.

Both Dr. May and EVC Lonon also reassured us that, in the short term, District IT and LeCroy Center personnel are working with Blackboard to help speed the fix of whatever issues arise.
As for a longer-term strategy, CIO Marshall also said that “Presidents, AVPs, and Faculty Senate (Council)” will inform discussions on the future of the LMS for the DCCCD, to ensure we have a system that meets our complex needs and performs satisfactorily throughout the year.
Similarly, both Dr. May and EVC Lonon said they want and expect faculty to play a significant role in identifying the capabilities our next LMS should have, so that students will have seamless technology support, regardless of the modality of the courses in which they enroll.

The Faculty Council welcomes the opportunity to participate in these ongoing conversations, as a means to ensure that faculty interests are represented at all stages of the process.


The Faculty Council requested, and the District has granted, a one-day extension for the filing of Fall 2017 semester grades. Here is the statement released by Anna Mays, Associate Vice Chancellor for Educational Policy:

Due to recent issues with Blackboard outages which delayed student submission of assignments and access to exams on eCampus, the deadline for posting grades is being extended (from 12/11 to 12/12 by 11:59 p.m.) to allow additional time for faculty grading and posting of grades.  

If possible, faculty are encouraged to submit grades by the previously established deadline of 12/11, because delays in posting grades prevent students from accessing grades on eConnect, registering for the appropriate courses for the next semester, and submitting updated transcripts to transfer universities. The deadline is 12/12, 11:59 p.m.; any further delay  in posting grades may be detrimental to students, especially those on financial aid, because Satisfactory Academic Progress and continued financial aid will be calculated later that week based on final grades. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

DCCFA Climate Survey Results Confirm Correlation between Salary Compression and Difficulty Improving Faculty Diversity

The DCCFA Biennial Climate Survey is administered to gauge faculty attitudes and perceptions on a wide variety of issues, including compensation. Starting in 2015, the Communications Committee of the DCCFA began conducting the survey in two parts. The first part, administered in the fall semester, would gauge faculty attitudes on specific issues identified as important by large numbers of faculty. This data helps the Faculty Council identify strategic priorities to advance throughout the academic year. The second part, administered in the spring semester, gauges faculty perceptions of the overall climate of the DCCCD.

Part One of the DCCFA Biennial Climate Survey was completed this fall. Special thanks go to long-time DCCFA member, Doug Keenan, who recently retired from Mountain View College, but graciously agreed to conduct the survey again from his home computer, as well as compile and aggregate the data, and produce reports to share with members.

DCCFA members are invited to peruse the overall Climate Survey results from faculty across the District, as well as those from each of the individual colleges: Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, El Centro, Eastfield, Mountain View, North Lake, and Richland.

After correlating and sorting the Climate Survey data by respondents’ demographic selections, the Faculty Council found that survey results largely confirm what we have learned anecdotally and historically about the extent to which salary compression is inextricably linked to the lack of ability of the DCCCD to retain faculty from diverse backgrounds.

Our recent efforts to improve entering faculty pay, establish milestone increases, and perform targeted recruitment of potential faculty will continue to pay dividends with even more diverse faculty hires in the coming years. However,  we are struggling to retain diverse faculty from historically underrepresented backgrounds because many of them can earn higher pay in industry or at other institutions. In other words, making a diverse hire now does not improve our diversity numbers if we lose an experienced faculty member from a diverse background to another employer.

Historical data supports this hypothesis. Despite significant efforts at all colleges to hire faculty from diverse backgrounds, an analysis of DCCCD Board meeting agendas and minutes since 2007 reveals that a disproportionate share of faculty resignations (not retirements, and not non-renewals of visiting scholars at several of the DCCCD colleges), are faculty from diverse, historically underrepresented backgrounds, in large measure because their DCCCD salaries have not kept pace with what they can earn with other employers. Indeed, a significant percentage of our diverse faculty fall within the large “middle” of career faculty hired between 1981 and 2012, who never will earn a 3-year milestone increase, who never benefited from step raises, and who increasingly are seeing their salaries surpassed by younger colleagues with equivalent credentials.

Data from the Fall 2017 Biennial Faculty Climate Survey, in which 420 full-time faculty participated, confirms the hypothesis that salary compression hinders efforts to retain faculty from historically underrepresented backgrounds, and thus keeps the District from diversifying its faculty ranks.
Faculty first were asked to respond to demographic sorting questions, such as sex/gender, race/ethnicity, teaching area, and longevity. Then, they were asked to respond to a series of statements on a Likert scale. Some of the most relevant correlations are excerpted here:

On Question 21: “Lack of compensation adjustments to reflect my experience relative to the entering salary of faculty in my range makes me more likely to seek employment outside the DCCCD,”
53% of DCCCD faculty overall agreed or strongly agreed
56% of African-American faculty agreed or strongly agreed
50% of Hispanic/Latino faculty agreed or strongly agreed
64% of CTE faculty agreed or strongly agreed
51% of STEM faculty agreed or strongly agreed

On Question 27: “I rely on extra service teaching to make ends meet in my personal/household budget,”
73% of DCCCD faculty overall agreed or strongly agreed
77% of DCCCD faculty who teach extra service agreed or strongly agreed
73% of female faculty agreed or strongly agreed
71% of African-American faculty agreed or strongly agreed
76% of Hispanic/Latino faculty agreed or strongly agreed
76% of CTE faculty agreed or strongly agreed
68% of STEM faculty agreed or strongly agreed

The Faculty Council plans to share these findings with Chancellor May in the coming weeks, with a mind toward generating concrete recommendations to ameliorate salary compression in an effort to retain what diversity we have now, even as efforts are undertaken to continue to hire additional diverse faculty in forthcoming searches.

Faculty Council Seeks Members to Serve on WORK GROUP DELTA to Discuss Performance Metrics

The Faculty Council is attempting to be proactive to develop contingency plans for a number of different scenarios that may (or may not) affect DCCCD faculty in the future.

One such concern is a sentiment, previously expressed among some DCCCD Board of Trustees members, that all DCCCD employees – including faculty – be evaluated and/or even compensated based on performance metrics. Indeed, this marks the first year in which Chancellor May and his direct reports will be evaluated based in part on performance metrics.

It is important to note that the Faculty Council has not been told that a performance metrics based evaluation or compensation system for faculty is imminent or planned. Nevertheless, in an environment where we increasingly are expected to be accountable to various local, state, and federal entities, it is imperative that we faculty be prepared for any eventuality.

The Faculty Council has grave doubts about the efficacy or equity of an evaluation or compensation system based on performance metrics. However, the Faculty Council also recognizes that the Board of Trustees at any time could direct the chancellor to implement faculty evaluation or compensation systems based on performance metrics. If so, in the spirit of shared governance, the Faculty Council believes that faculty should be trusted and empowered to identify and select appropriate performance metrics for evaluation and/or compensation, rather than abdicate that responsibility to non-instructional officers of the DCCCD, or outside consultants.

Therefore, the Faculty Council will convene an ad hoc committee, called WORK GROUP DELTA, to study the issue of performance metrics, and identify the kinds of indicators that conceivably could be among numerous options on a menu of performance metrics that would be appropriate for faculty evaluation or compensation.

El Centro College Faculty Association President Pam Crawford will serve as ex officio chair of this group. Each DCCCD college faculty association president is being charged to recommend a colleague from his/her college to serve on WORK GROUP DELTA.

WORK GROUP DELTA will meet and discuss concerns, and make recommendations, during the Spring 2018 semester. Any recommendations submitted to the Faculty Council from WORK GROUP DELTA will not be passed on to college or District leaders, or to DCCCD Board members, unless and until there is clear indication that performance metrics are recommended to become part of the evaluation or compensation system. In other words, the report that WORK GROUP DELTA prepares will be kept on file by the Faculty Council, in the hopes that it never will have to be proposed.

If you are interested in serving as your college faculty association’s representative on WORK GROUP DELTA, please contact your college’s faculty association president.