Virtual Labs Service Brings Access and Flexibility to Community College Students and Faculty While Providing Cost Savings and Educational Expansion to Colleges


A proof of concept is underway in the South Central Coast Region (SCCRC) to embrace and actuate the California Community College Chancellor’s Strong Workforce Program objectives to increase enrollment and facilitate more completions. Stakeholders throughout the region are working together to bring cloud-based labs to eight community colleges through design by the regional director of Information and Communication Technologies and Digital Media (ICT-DM) in collaboration with SynED and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s new Digital Transformation Hub. The region spans Northern Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties.

This effort allows students to access labs for a variety of Information Technology (IT) and cybersecurity classes at any time and from anywhere. It also significantly reduces faculty workload by implementing the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) integration with Instructure’s Canvas learning management system, used by all eight colleges, and making labs available for collective use. This, in turn, allows faculty to serve more students and increase the number of trained professionals in the workforce to fill the thousands of open IT positions in California and across the United States.

Embarking on projects like this represents an opportunity for community colleges to combine financial and intellectual capital to solve shared problems in a cohesive and mutually-beneficial way. Further, according to Herbert and Wigley (2015), the development of a student’s experience (related to computer networking skills, including networking security) must address both problem-solving and soft skills (such as teamwork). Virtual labs integration within coursework achieves this goal.


After considering extensive research, Kam, Gogolin & Emerick in 2014 determined that “Cybersecurity education requires learners to acquire knowledge through hands-on activities and authentic learning, whereby real-life scenarios are investigated and acted upon.”

Traditionally, students have practiced computer networking and security skills at a centralized physical lab (and equipment) or a limited virtual lab appliance at their educational institution. Physical labs and college-based data centers have high costs associated with the maintenance

and repair of the hardware and software. Further, researchers noted that the cost limitations for a physical lab and college-based data center should include personnel, electricity, and other physical environmental costs.

An external service providing a turn-key virtualized environment that is identical to the corresponding physical environment will decrease the need for high-cost physical labs, yet provide open virtualized environments that let students experience the real-life scenarios that so critical in educating for technical careers. Virtual lab platforms must serve students with on demand, 24x7x365, access to a virtual lab environment from anywhere there is an internet connection. Virtual labs must also represent the full functionality of a real-world setting.

Cini and Krause (2014) suggested that higher education (including community colleges) will discard the “assembly model of one-size-fits-all” used over the past 150 years, due to online educational environments, which include virtualized environments.

The re-set of discarding the ‘sage on the stage’ to the educator as collaborator discards the typical silos of higher-education learning, and will further redefine higher education in coming years because of the following significant aspects (Cini & Krause, 2014):

  • Demographic trends: Enrollments will soften until at least 2020, necessitating institutions to seek creative ways to ensure that courses survive at institutions by using online and virtualized environments.
  • Tuition cost: Students cannot afford higher tuition and will become more resistant to increased costs. As a result, they will become smarter shoppers for relevant education, which will have an impact on how colleges offer courses to students, including online and virtualized courses.
  • Continued proliferation of Internet-technologies: Accelerating and converging technology trends will provide new student training opportunities that students will progressively be required by employers, especially in the IT field.
  • Trend towards competency-based education: Competency-based education will allow students to leverage their prior experiences to attain their desired certificate and degree goals in an adaptive manner, suggesting that courses must offer real-life case scenarios.

Project History

The groundwork for the SCCRC virtual labs project began from observing other regional implementations of shared labs that were hosted on a designated college campus. Although a valid solution, campus-hosted labs are constrained by campus hardware investment, in-house technical support, third-party software licensing at individual colleges, limited support hours and campus security burden.

The SCCRC region desired to approach Labs as a Service (LaaS) where there is no college physical location overhead, 24×7 support for faculty and students, third-party licensing bundled within the lab course, and a service level agreement (SLA) in place for availability and security.

Paula Hodge, Regional Director and Deputy Sector Navigator for ICT-DM in the South Central Coast Region, came to that role after a successful career as an IT director in the corporate world. She saw an opportunity to use cloud technology to overcome the “build it over buy it” preference that tends to be prevalent across higher education.

Hodge learned about Cal Poly’s Digital Transformation Hub (DX-Hub), a new collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) designed to help nonprofit organizations solve technical challenges through innovation. The virtual lab project proved to be a perfect initial project for the group to take on.

The project is being coordinated by SynED, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting innovation in education at all levels, through research and providing higher education professional services to facilitate the development of new models of curriculum, industry alliance, service, and delivery.

Jerry Buckley, Chief Instructional Officer at College of the Canyons, sees the conversations happening around this project as reminiscent of the discussions that took place as the first computer labs were being built in the 1990s. Virtual labs provide a great opportunity to completely reimagine how students engage with technology on and off campus.

“This opens up educational resources to students and to faculty, who now have access 24/7. You couldn’t say that five years ago,” Buckley said. “There will still be computer labs, but they will become more specialized and represent a different set resource to a different group of students.”


Figure 1 Paula Hodge (right), regional Deputy Sector Navigator for Information and Communication Technologies and Digital Media overseeing the solution design process for the South Central Coast Regional Consortium Virtual Lab project

The DX-Hub’s implementation process is modeled after Amazon’s Customer Obsession, Design Thinking, and The Working Backwards Process. This called for the formation of a “two-pizza team,” having no more than 10 members that work with relative autonomy that could be nimble and make decisions quickly to rapidly innovate.

The core group met for an initial half day “customer empathy” session followed by an all-day intensive planning session in February 2018 to define what the final solution would look like. This, in turn, defined the project’s goals and worked as a guide to develop a plan for evaluating and selecting a virtual lab vendor.

Focusing on the finished solution allowed the team to delve into the heart of the problem they were trying to solve by selecting appropriate technology, rather than choosing a technology first then finding a problem for it to solve. Free from bureaucratic constraints, the team was able to create a vision for better serving students, enabling faculty while still being institutionally and financially sound.

The two-pizza project team included:

  • Paula Hodge, ICT-DM Deputy Sector Navigator, South Central Coast Region
  • Ed Garcia, IT faculty, Moorpark College
  • Mike Rose, Chief Technology Officer, Ventura Community College District
  • Jim Bowen, IT faculty, Antelope Valley College
  • Rick Shaw, Chief Technology Officer, Antelope Valley College
  • Angel Cardenas, IT Faculty, Santa Barbara City College
  • Scott Young, Director/CFO, SynED

Following the DX-Hub process, SynED provided research to locate vendors that most closely aligned with the team’s design. Three top vendors were identified through a request for proposal (RFP) process. In addition to a demonstration, each vendor provided evaluation access to the team for unscripted testing and evaluation of the service. This process took place over the course of two months — lightning speed in higher education.

Practice Labs was selected as the winning vendor in May 2018. Practice Labs stood apart from its competitors because of its integrations with Canvas and other learning management systems. LTI integration allows for seamless communication between systems and gives students access to all of the tools they need in one place with a single sign-on. In addition, it substantially saves time for faculty in managing their classes and grading students work.

Team members appreciated the structure of the process and the speed with which it enabled them to make decisions, particularly when it came to evaluating vendors and making a final selection. Mike Rose, Chief Technology Officer for the Ventura Community College District, said the vendor selection process helped solidify the plan put in place during the planning sessions.

“It was one of the times we felt like we made the most movement and really helped us get our arms around what we were going to do,” he said.


Early results from the virtual labs proof of concept are positive. The pilot project will continue throughout the coming academic year. If this proof of concept is successful, the virtual lab service can be expanded to include other sectors and K-12 schools.

Figure 2 Community College IT student accessing a class lab from a coffee shop.

 Throughout the testing and early implementation process, Practice Labs has proven to be much more than a service provider. The company has existing relationships with CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, and VMWare and allows students to earn certifications alongside their classroom instruction.

The organization has provided excellent support to faculty throughout the proof of concept phase. Like any new software implementation, things did not go perfectly during testing, but the project team felt that Practice Labs proved to be a business partner and not just a vendor. Their virtual labs solution aligns with creating virtual Labs as a Service (LaaS) and any challenges we have encountered thus far, are being addressed without additional cost.

Although the project is still in its initial phases, the team can already see the potential for breaking down the barriers that divide colleges with resources from those without. Virtual labs will put everyone on the same playing field. The project also shows the power that can be realized when community colleges work together to solve challenges that are greater than the sum of their parts.

Ed Garcia, an IT faculty member at Moorpark College, began using virtual labs in his courses this summer and has already been able to increase his class capacity from 25 students to 40 without adding any additional lab space, hardware and work to his already full plate. He estimates that his workload will be reduced by half, which will allow him more time to focus on training adjunct instructors and developing the curriculum for a new associate degree in cybersecurity.

“I really believe this is a new digital divide because the training is at a whole new level of sophistication and student confidence and experience will be off the charts,” Garcia said.

Utilizing a virtual lab service has the potential to bring equality of access to community colleges across the region. Smaller colleges and those in economically-disadvantaged areas can offer their students first-rate opportunities without incurring any additional overhead. Since access to labs is browser-based and requires relatively low-cost computers, colleges may also be able to shift funds from maintaining physical computer labs into purchasing inexpensive laptops, tablets, or other devices that students can use to complete virtual labs — something that will benefit students who are not able to purchase these devices on their own.

Mark Peterschick, an IT instructor at Allan Hancock College, said virtual labs provide a critical missing piece necessary for students to complete A+ certification. Students can work at their own pace and gain the skills necessary to complement what they learn in the classroom and ultimately become workplace-ready technicians.

As ironic as it might seem, virtual labs may provide more real-world experience than physical labs due to the changing nature of IT work. Hodge has seen this transformation first hand over the course of her career.

“It requires significant overhead and capital expense to provide entry level training so that someone knows what a router looks like,” Hodge said. “But when you go into the real world, most likely an individual won’t see what a router looks like; they’ll manage it virtually.”

Next Steps

The proof of concept in the South Central Coast Region will continue through the end of the 2018-19 academic year. If successful, the project team will begin the RFP process for a long-term production contract for all eight of the region’s colleges.

One of the barriers to getting there is convincing faculty at those colleges that this change, while it will require extra work from them up front, will lead to the best outcome for their students. Jim Bowen, an IT faculty member at Antelope Valley College and member of project team, can appreciate this hesitation but thinks the benefit to students in terms of convenience and flexibility is well worth it.

“They might be frustrated if it doesn’t work perfectly the first time or embarrassed if they have to learn something new,” Bowen said. “When things get tight, people don’t drive to community colleges and our enrollment declines. With tools like this, students can do their classes and labs from home, from Starbucks, or wherever they are.”

Hodge would like to make virtual labs available to high school students to further expand the pathway toward IT and cybersecurity careers. Placing labs in the cloud removes the burden of hosting them from resource-strapped schools and provides access to students who might not have been able to engage with them otherwise. This is important for ensuring that underserved communities have access to the tools necessary to fill the IT job openings throughout California.

Beyond high school students, Hodge sees virtual labs as a tool to help anyone who is looking to sharpen their IT skills in a convenient and accessible way. If successful in IT labs, virtualization technology can be used for everything from Quickbooks labs for business students to anatomy labs for nursing students.

“One of my roles as a deputy sector navigator is to bring in the tools that the faculty need as they educate someone on new technical skills and competencies,” Hodge said. “I am in awe of the faculty and want to provide all of the tools they need to serve students, employees, and employers.”

Additional Information

For more information on the virtual labs project, contact:

Paula Hodge

Deputy Sector Navigator, Information Communication Technologies and Digital Media, South

Central Coast Region [email protected]

About South Central Coast Regional Consortium

There are eight-member South Central Coast Regional colleges whose service areas encompass the south central coast of California including all of Ventura County, north through Santa Barbara County, to San Luis Obispo, east to the northern end of Los Angeles County in

Santa Clarita and onward into the Antelope Valley, over 9,000 total square miles. Home to over 2.2M people, this region is characterized by small and mid-sized metropolitan communities and expansive rural areas.

Member Colleges & CEOs
Allan Hancoock College, Santa Maria

(Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D.)

Antelope Valley College, Lancaster

(Edward Knudson)

Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo

(Jill Stearns, Ph.D.)

Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara 
(Dr. Anthony E. Beebe)

College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita

(Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook)

Moorpark College, Moorpark

(Luis P. Sanchez, JD, LLM)

Oxnard College, Oxnard

(Cynthia E. Azari, Ed.D.)

Ventura College, Ventura

(Dr. Damon Bell, Interim President)


About Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy – Strong Workforce Program

Doing What MATTERS for jobs and the economy is a four-pronged framework to respond to the call of our nation, state, and regions to close the skills gap. The four prongs are: Give Priority for

Jobs and the Economy » Make Room for Jobs and the Economy » Promote Student Success »

Innovate for Jobs and the Economy. The goals of Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy are to supply in-demand skills for employers, create relevant career pathways and stackable credentials, promote student success, and get Californians into open jobs.

About The Digital Transformation Hub (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo)

The Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub provides students with experiential learning opportunities in the public sector. Cal Poly has a respected history and passion for the Learn by Doing approach to education. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a leading provider of scalable cloud computing services. As the world’s first university-based innovation program powered by AWS, the Cal Poly DxHub is dedicated to connecting public sector organizations with engaged students and world-class technology expertise.

About SynED

SynED is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting educational excellence by providing higher education professional services to facilitate the development of new models of curriculum, industry alliance, service, and delivery. SynED seeks to facilitate collaboration and communication to find common ground in an increasingly complex and diverse educational ecosystem.


Cini, M., & Krause, A. (2017, January 30). Technology Set to Redefine Higher Education. Retrieved June 24, 2018, from

Kam, H. J., Gogolin, G., & Emerick, G. (2014, October). Authentic Learning in Cybersecurity: Learning Opportunities and Pedagogical Challenges. In 2014 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) (pp. 1-4). IEEE.

Son, J., Irrechukwu, C., & Fitzgibbons, P. (2012). Virtual Lab for Online Cyber Security Education. Communications of the IIMA, 12(4), 5.

By Paul Petrone LinkedIn Learning Blog

We know the world of work is changing quickly, particularly when you hear stats like the shelf-life of a skill today is a mere 5 years. But often, when we hear stats like that we think of hard skills, such as having to learn some new technology or software.

That’s not accurate. There’s a misnomer out there that being a great manager requires a more static skillset that doesn’t change much over time. Not true. The world of work is rapidly changing, and the skills managers need to possess will rapidly change as well. So what skills will become critical for managers to master over the next five years? To find out, we consulted with three experts on the subject:

  • Todd Dewett, a former professor of management who now runs his own leadership management firm, where he goes around the world coaching managers.
  • LinkedIn Learning Sr. Manager of Business Content Jolie Miller, who oversees business publishing and extensive quantitative and qualitative research on what skills are trending for today’s leaders.
  • Former LinkedIn Head of Human Resources Pat Wadors, who was both a manager of a 500-employee department herself and charged with developing great managers at LinkedIn.

The three of them collectively highlighted several skills that – thanks to changes in both market conditions and demographics – will become increasingly more important to managers over the next five years. They are:


With artificial intelligence playing a bigger and bigger role, along with significant political developments, it’s hard to predict exactly how
work will change over the next five years. But here’s something you can count on – it will change and likely change drastically. And that will create a massive challenge for managers, Miller, Wadors and Dewett said.

That’s because invariably, the toughest times for any manager is during a transition, as people tend to resist change. With more transitions virtually
guaranteed, the best managers will be the ones who are the most open to those changes and can effectively manage their employees through it.
That starts with managers themselves being open to change and setting the example for the rest of the team. But, even beyond that, they need to be able to effectively manage their employees through all of this change as well – not an easy task.

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

  • Leading Change
  • Change Management
  • Handling Workplace Change as an Employee


Hiring has always been difficult; but it will only get more difficult over the next five years. The best managers will have to be both excellent screeners of talent, as well as being “talent magnets” themselves.

Let’s start with why hiring is only going to get harder. Not that long ago, jobs were relatively static. An accountant or a factory worker or a salesperson would often do the same thing day after day, so if someone had a certain amount of experience and/or the right credentials, it was likely they could do the job.

But that’s rarely the case anymore. Managers today will increasingly hire for jobs that have only existed for a few years. Even jobs that have been around for a long time have changed so dramatically, the skills needed to do them well are vastly different than what was needed 15 years

Hence, hiring over the next five years will go away from looking at the stalwarts so many organizations used to rely on so heavily – namely, experience and college credentials. Instead, in a rapidly changing world, a person’s “transferable” skills like leadership and project management will increasingly become more important.

The challenge is that those skills are harder to screen for than, say, requiring at least five years of experience. That will make recruiting more
challenging, requiring managers to be more in-tune with what they need.

“Not long ago, hiring managers looked for the presence or absence of a college degree,” Dewett said. “It wasn’t terribly complicated. Today… the
proliferation of educational sources is likely to increase the use of applied testing and actual work as forms of talent assessment during the screening process. That’s a lot more to understand compared to the traditional interview process.”

Additionally, managers themselves need to understand the importance they play in recruiting as well. Wadors describes the best managers as “talent magnets” who attract great people to work for them (it can go the other way too). So this quickly becomes a two-fold challenge: being both an excellent screener and attractor of talent (a rare combination).

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

  • Performance-Based Hiring
  • Building Your Team
  • Finding and Retaining High Potentials

Diversity and Inclusion

Going along with the last point, Wadors said diversity and inclusion will increasingly become more important over the next five years. And not just racial or gender diversity, but diversity of thought and background as well.


First off, there is a plethora of research suggesting that diverse, inclusive teams outperform more homogeneous teams. Additionally, hiring
great talent will increasingly become more important – although if you are (intentionally or unintentionally) excluding certain people, you are limiting your field and hurting your employer brand.

Wadors said the key here is casting a wider net when hiring. Requiring a college degree from a prestigious school or seven years of experience in a specific field is becoming outdated. Instead, it’s incumbent on managers to look beyond credentials, which will also open them up to a more diverse talent pool.

On the day-to-day management front, it comes down to inclusion, Wadors said. So yes, it’s great to have a diverse staff, but that diversity is wasted if people don’t feel like they belong at work. The best managers moving forward will focus on inclusion, where all of their employees – regardless of race, gender, political belief, extroversion level, etc. – believe like their opinions are valued and considered.

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

  • Managing Diversity
  • Communicating Across Cultures
  • Unconscious Bias

Managing Generational Differences

There are countless articles today on managing millennials. That’s because organizations are struggling to manage them. And, starting already, there’s a whole new struggle – turning these millennials into managers themselves. Adding to that, for a variety of reasons, people are working longer than ever today. It’s not unusual for a manager to have a 25-year old and a 65-year-old on the same team; something that was very rare 20 years ago. And there are still the Gen Xers, who seem to get almost no media attention, yet who occupy a significant portion of the workforce.

Oh, and here’s another thing – there’s been a lot written about millennials. But, by 2020, a whole new generation will be coming into the workforce: “Generation Z” (people born after the mid-1990s). Who knows what their collective personality will be like?

All of these generations have different expectations, different preferred methods of communication and different worldviews. And yet somehow, managers need to turn them all into one cohesive unit.

“Understanding values differences and differences in communication tools and methods will be vital,” Dewett said. “New open mindedness and creativity will be required to reimagine certain policies, processes and tools to accommodate the desires of the new majority.”

The Takeaway

The role of manager will not be easy over the next five years. As you can see, you can count one thing: change. Change in the market, change in hiring trends, change in employee demographics and expectations.

All of that change has the potential to create real angst among employees. It’s up to managers to ensure that doesn’t happen. So what’s the best strategy for managers moving forward? To embrace this change as much as they can and strive to always be learning. Along with being the best  way to prepare themselves to handle it, it’ll also set the example to the rest of their team that this change presents a great opportunity, if handled correctly.

And, for organizations, the same can be said on a broader scale – if you can teach these skills to your managers, you’ll have a huge advantage moving forward.

Why are so many companies unprepared for an aging world?

JOE COUGHLIN, the director of the MIT Age Lab and author of “The Longevity Economy” (Photo: Handout)

The problem is not so much that companies are afraid of age. It’s that they think they understand it — but that “understanding” is woefully incomplete. The dominant narrative of old age, taken for granted by almost everyone, portrays a highly specific image of “oldness”: a need for rest at all times. A diminishment of output, such as work, ideas, cultural products. An overarching idea that older people are always takers, never givers; always consumers, never producers. And as a result, companies make products that, at their core, are designed for passive participants in society. Meanwhile, older people increasingly demand to be active participants. That fundamental disconnect, combined with the mind-boggling wealth and size of the burgeoning older population, is enough to turn entire industries inside out as new entrants figure out how to give older adults the tools they need to participate, create, build, and influence the world around them.

You write that the idea that there exists one single state of older that kicks in at age 50, 65, or any other single age, defies all logic. Why?

Imagine taking any other 50-year swath of the lifespan and connecting a handful of specific attributes to all the people in it. It would be a ludicrous exercise. And yet we do exactly that for the stretch of life starting in our 50s, 60s and 70s. The set of “older adults” contains people of every conceivable sort: ethnicity, religion, sexuality, medical status, political persuasion — and anything else you could name, other than age. Even if we personally know older people who defy the stereotypes, most of us still paint the idea of “older people” with a single, insanely widemental brushstroke. “Old” is not anyone’s defining attribute.

A new better story of life in old age will replace our current narrative of aging? What is that story?

A new generation of older adults is beginning to demand far more out of later life than ever before: not just passive consumerism, but the active pursuit of meaning. It’s impossible to say exactly what tomorrow’s older adults will find meaningful as they begin to explore new possibilities in old age; likely, it will be a variety of things broad enough to defy description. But what will change will be the presence of products and services designed to support them on their journey.

What do you make of wealthy and highly educated Americans reaping the bulk of longevity gains?

In the U.S. alone, unlike the rest of the world, there has been a recent downward blip on the otherwise decades-long trend toward longer life. Look closely and you’ll see that mortality has risen in particular for economically disadvantaged people with relatively low levels of education. Look even closer and you’ll see that the recent mortality spike has affected this group in late midlife more strongly than in older age ranges. Many of these deaths have been dubbed “deaths of despair,” the result of suicide, alcohol, and drugs. But what is the source of the despair? Depending who you ask, it could be the result of anything from economic forces to the collapse of social institutions. I would add another to the list: Many people in middle age think their future will be terrible. Economic considerations are a major part of this assumption, but so is the ambient, negative idea of old age. (In fact, average selfreported happiness reaches a nadir in midlife and rises thereafter.) So to answer your question, changing the way we think about what’s possible old age is anything but frivolous in light of these alarming mortality statics. The challenge will be to make sure the new narrative of possibility is an equitable one: for people across income and education levels, and — crucially — across lines of race. Baby Boomers: your Millennial children are worseoff than you. Millennials earn 20 percent less than Boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis by the advocacy group Young Invincibles. (Jan. 13) AP

Who will be the agents of change in the new world of longer life and older age?


Women, particularly those of middle age and above, are likely to be the leaders in identifying new wants and needs on the aging frontier.
And, given a fair chance, they will be the ones to innovate answers to those demands in the form of products. (Hint, Silicon Valley finance!) Not only do women typically live longer than men, but they are most likely to be the chief consumer officer of the home. Women make or directly influence purchasing decisions in key consumer categories including the automotive, health, and many other domains. Moreover, it is the deeply unfair truth that women provide more eldercare than men.

Research we’ve done at the MIT AgeLab suggests that women enter old age with a clearer, more detailed picture of what’s ahead. That makes
sense: The firsthand knowledge that comes from being the primary buyer and caregiver gives them a unique vantage in understanding what products, services and experiences are effective as they respond to the challenges and exigencies of old age — and which could be improved upon.
Unfortunately, older women are often invisible to the investment and technology communities. The unacceptable result is that the needs and wants they are responsible go unanswered, and the tools they deserve never get built.

More: Many unaware of Roth 401(k) benefits

More: How to shop smart for Medicare during annual enrollment

More: Retirees: 4 ways you can start planning for possible tax law changes now

All told, the notion that young men are the face of innovation hurts older men and women alike. When young people attempt to innovate for the
older market, I see them come up with the same stuff again and again: Pill reminders. Fall detectors. Emergency response technologies.

All useful, noble technologies — but evidence that young people can’t get past the idea that older people are a medical problem to be solved. In reality, older adults come with the full spectrum of economic demands; it’s just that young men just don’t have any idea what they are. Older women do. And smart venture capital will bet on their ideas.

What is the legacy of Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomers are the loudest generation in history. Now, someone turns 65 every seven or eight seconds. They’ve had companies cater to their every whim throughout their lives, and they don’t expect that to stop now.

That will mean enormous demand for products that don’t merely work for tomorrow’s older adults, but will actively excite and delight them for decades to come. The new generation gap will be the gap of expectations: not just to live longer, but to live better. Fascinatingly enough, that heightened level of expectation, combined with both the Boomers’ political and economic power, may change the fabric of what is possible in old age. As the Boomers demand and use the tools to pursue meaning later in life than ever before, our narrative of aging will change. They may lay
the foundation for others to live in a world that is ageless: where old age is a stage where the norm is not to withdraw, but to engage.

Robert Powell contributes regularly to USA TODAY, TheStreet, and The Wall Street Journal. Got questions about money?


Governor Brown’s budget proposal to establish the 115th community college as a fully online campus will give California’s stranded workers a flexible affordable learning option and the opportunity to advance in today’s economy.

Creating Equity and Access for 2.5 Million Californians

  • Millions of California’s stranded workers are currently at a career plateau because they lack the educational opportunities needed for economic mobility and are unable to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar campus. The fully online college will enable them to obtain the sub-associate  degree certificates they need to advance their careers and improve their economic future. The working adults who have fallen through the cracks and will be served by this flexible affordable option include:
  • More than 2.5 million Californians ages 25 to 34 who cannot access traditional higher education, or afford a private online college. The makeup of this population is 49 percent Latino, 31 percent white, nine percent Asian and seven percent African American.
  • Another 6.2 million adults between 35 and 65 in a similar situation.

Individuals from Spanish-speaking homes who are often the primary wage-earner and cannot afford to miss work, or have family responsibilities that prevent them from attending traditional college.

Fuel for California’s Economic Growth

As the sixth largest economy in the world, California must invest in educating and training more students to meet the increasing demand for a skilled workforce and fuel our growing economy and the emerging technologies on the horizon. Through partnerships with employers, industry
sectors, and organized labor, the fully online community college will build the skills that match the quality jobs that employers are looking to fill – and that California’s economy needs to succeed. Consider these facts:

  • In the U.S., 65 percent of jobs will require some type of credential or degree by the year 2020, according to estimates by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Two-thirds of those jobs available will only require less than an associate’s degree.
  • By 2020, the share of new jobs available in California requiring some college experience will equal the share requiring a bachelor’s degree, according to PPIC. Research from PPIC shows that California workers with some college earn 20 to 30 percent more than otherwise similar workers with just a high school education.

Fills a critical void in our current higher education system

This proposed 115th community college is unlike anything currently offered in California and will complement, not compete with, traditional
campuses, because it targets a population not currently being served. The fully online community college is a distinct offering from community
colleges’ existing Online Education Initiative (OEI), which focuses on traditional courses for degree attainment and transfer to a four-year university. While private institutions currently offer fully online programs, they often are unaffordable for working adults, with tuitions seven to nine times
higher than community college.

The online college will provide a more accessible, affordable alternative by offering:

  • The opportunity to enroll on a more frequent basis throughout the calendar year, allowing working adults to take classes at their own pace as their schedules allow and from where they choose.
  • Greater flexibility for students to learn at the times most convenient to them.
  • A price consistent with traditional community college in California – the lowest tuition and fees for community college in the country.

Building a System to Ensure Future Success

Over the next several months, California Community Colleges will conduct a transparent stakeholder process to further develop and finetune the fully online community college system and determine how to best address the unique needs of California’s stranded workers. Key elements of the proposal include:

  • GOVERNANCE: The online college will function as an independent district under the statewide Chancellor’s Office, with the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges initially serving as the governing board.
  • FUNDING: The governor has proposed to invest $100 million over seven years to fund this effort, with $20 million in ongoing funds.
  • FACULTY: The college will hire faculty, student support service experts, and other staff to support the unique and diverse needs of students accessing the college’s programs and to ensure student success in the current and future

Appetite and aptitude for online learning growing

A third of students in the California Community Colleges system now take at least one class online, and the success rate is more than 60 percent. This will be the first fully
online public college in California, a model that is gaining traction across the country due to an increased market demand and improved educational delivery and student support approaches.

In other states, institutions like Arizona State University have already launched fully online public colleges and achieved impressive results. ASU Online – which offers six different start dates per year and ample student support programs – has enrolled nearly 75,000 students in just seven years since launching. By creating our own fully online college, California will meet the public’s demand for a flexible and accessible online learning option that workers need to succeed in today’s economy. Founders Guy Smith and Scott Young knew that there had to be a better way.

Guy Smith

A lifelong interest in students and the workforce, one as a community college professor and Dean, the other as a curriculum developer and consultant to private industry needs, both knew that the educational ecosystem was changing fast.

In addition to the swarm of new personal learning technologies, and rapidly changing skill sets needed for work there was also a movement among private business, non profits and concerned corporations to provide alternate educational resources that help students attain 3rd party industry recognized Certifications as digital badges they could post on their LinkedIn profiles.

In a blink the formal academic programs taught over semesters in classroom and only validated on a hard to retrieve transcripts were being replaced by just-in-time on-line education and verifiable digital badges shown on the students LinkedIn profile that could be detected by recruiters searching LinkedIn for new hires.

Scott Young

Alternate education, workforce needs, technology and students are charging forward like swam of bees while traditional educational institutions sits still like a tied up prisoner.

Laws, organizational structure and organized contracts that leave little room to maneuver by traditional education leadership. Even with the open floodgates of funding, the ability to evaluate education programs, implement with scale, purchase with group leverage, and to market with a value proposition are still not agile tools of traditional education. Helpful ideas, opinions and alternatives of every point of view abound and vie for the new funds.

To be effective in this new educational ecosystem there is a need for a larger strategic vision of educational alternatives to include hybrid educational experiences and credit for prior learning in the traditional educational system accompanied by timely decision making and coordinated action on a statewide scale.

However, the traditional educational ecosystem is a very large complex system. Funding for the CA Community College system alone is over 8 billion per year serving over 2.2 million students on 112 campuses. Campus related bond measures, multi year labor contracts with faculty and others, as well as government agency relationships and overlapping funding make this very delicate operation.

Constructive change will need to occur with series of well communicated responsible pilots and programs that also conform, in the case of the CA Community College system, to the executive guidance of Chancellor Eloy Oakley that balances change between the metric goals logic of the Vision of Success and the operational logic of the Guided Pathways program.

The Role of SynED

SynED, synthesis in education, a not-for–profit was formed by Guy and Scott to address the needs of education thru the effective synthesis of technology and strategy involving public, private, and alternate educational solutions.  Since its inception SynED has found itself pulled in many directions in pursuit of its mission. As part of a broader technology initiative Syned produced and hosted two Digital Badge Ecosystem Reviews, SynED piloted an unbiased public review of technology with stakeholders, students and technology 7th developers. These Reviews, in northern and southern California covering IT and Healthcare,  were published and also served as the basis for a digital badge implementation with Santa Barbara Community College for their Career Skills Institute. The implementation called for a ‘Solutions’ contractor role administering the usiness engagement, vendor management,  website development and badge implementation. Additional digital badge implementations for other CCCs with local business engagement are in planning stages.

SynEDs ability to function as a non-profit solutions and contract manager has met a need with many CCCs that have funding for projects but lack the bandwidth to launch an RFP, review vendors, manage multiple vendors on a time line and properly reports results metrics as well as the anecdotal stories that convey the gut level value of these projects. SynED Solutions does that for them by identifying suitable subject matter expert resources to be retained on an as needed basis for these projects. Some projects involve several subject matter experts and administrative staff on a temporary basis, some only need one, but Syned, not the college, handles the cost and management.

This flexibility to expand and target needs on a contractual basis is a real value when dealing with the conditions of educational funds and the stringent requirements for the solutions. With many projects underway due to the CA Community Colleges Strong Workforce mandate, SynEd’s continuous expansion and growth has resulted in the need to separate activities for maximum benefit.

SynED now feels it can serve its clients and target community better by functioning separately in the following new divisions:

SynED Research and Review

A non-profit non-commercial research and review of best practices, new and relevant technology and case studies in innovative education. This would include Publications, Quarterly Review, website postings, presentations, Industry panel convening’s, Conference presentations (like CCCAOE, NCCET). Our goal is always to provide an independent, informed and not affiliated
review and critique of current trends in education, especially tools and technologies. (e.g. see Digital Badge Ecosystem Reports)

SynED Initiatives

A non-profit managed collaboration of public and private entities where independence from bias and effective management is essential to achieving common goals. This would include our original Digital Badge Initiative and now includes our role as Cyberhub host. Cyberhub serves as an independent communications hub and organizer for all the unique and valuable cyber security training and competitions focused at middle and high school levels with continuing progress into the adult work sphere. Initially focused on California, Cyberhub supports the CCCs, CSUs, UC, Government agencies and many other private entities participating in this exciting competition based learning. The initiative has future plans to focus on the adult
employed in competitive teams to strengthen and make exciting the evolving world of cybersecurity. This is a true hybrid education initiative.

SynED Initiatives’ goal is to lead and galvanize budding relevant hybrid educational solutions into sustained growth and adoption across all  platforms and institutions.

SynED Solutions

Non-profit solutions and contract management for educational grants needing professional business expertise and pooling multi-college funds to support innovative and pilot projects. This includes our work with the SBCC CSI Digital Badge efforts as well as several contracts to help enable a robust Net Labs+ Computer Science Lab for regions with 8 and 12 colleges.

In each case SynED does what the College finds difficult, awkward to manage financially, or just not their usual way of doing business. In somecases this may involve a solution for multiple colleges where sharing investment in a solution makes good sense. SynEDs professional can-do approach assures that the quality is included and the reporting meets the needs of the institution.

SynED Masters

A non-profit host and support network for innovative and experienced professionals to initiate and direct independent grant proposals.This is a new initiative aimed at recruiting the best minds in education and workforce solutions. Often talented individuals need to be associated with an entity in order to win grants and run the intended program, SynED, as an educational non-profit organization qualifies as a grant host, provides much support from the research, initiatives and solutions divisions as well as the grant administration services necessary to be compliant with grants. Utilizing our wide network of experts, advisors, journalists and creative talent, grantees under the SynED hosting will produce their best work and results.

Combining Research – Initiatives – Solutions – Masters, SynEd achieves the balance that it needs to continue its growth and service to the educational community.

The goal is ultimately a win-win for all. We trust that faculty are motivated by student success. The legislature simply wants a healthy and robust economy with a vibrant workforce to match. Educational administration is likewise dedicated to both. Private and alternate educational solution provides share these same goals with the added incentive of an on going market based business.

We are moving toward a hybridized educational ecosystem we might as well be ready!

Governor Jerry Brown, whose first elected position in political life was as a community college district trustee in Los Angeles, makes a priority his proposal for an online community college in his final State of the State address in January 2018:

“With respect to higher education, it is clear just how much of our prosperity depends on the intellectual contributions of our institutions of higher learning. National leaders come from all over the world to visit California’s most innovative companies. Companies that are filled with highly educated and creative men and women — many of whom graduated from our public colleges and universities…

“Even with so many of our students attending college, there are still 2.5 million Californians between 25 and 34 who are in the workforce, but lack a postsecondary degree or certificate. These men and women often go out of state or pay high tuition at for-profit institutions to improve their skills and employability. For this group, I want to create the California Online College so these overlooked Californians can get the training they need conveniently and at very low cost.”

Educators, government and business come together to meet workforce demand and create opportunities for students across the state.

SACRAMENTO — No matter how you count, there’s a major shortage of cybersecurit workers in California. There are some 40,000 unfilled positions across the state, and that number is growing every day.

California’s higher education system is poised to meet that need through its 114 community colleges, 23 CSU campuses and 10 UC campuses. With so many players involved, communication and collaboration are key to making meaningful progress. Those conversations are already happening throughout the state and recently received the support of the California State Assembly. The California Cyberhub, along with key players from education, industry and government were brought together by the State Assembly Joint Oversight Committee for a hearing titled “Cybersecurity Education and the Needs of the Workforce.” (Video) The hearing included representatives from the University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, California Cyberhub and National University, as well as industry partners like Cisco Systems and CompTIA.

Committee chairs Jose Medina and Jacqui Irwin called upon those stakeholders to work together to ensure that California’s students have the opportunity to pursue degrees that will prepare them for cybersecurity jobs.

Creating a pathway

A great demand exists for cybersecurity professionals in both the public and private sectors. The public sector is especially challenged because salaries can’t compete with private employers, as the committee heard from Amy Tong, California’s chief technology officer, and Mike Petit, chief information officer for Ventura County.

One way to combat that is to make students interested in cybersecurity earlier, which is already happening in several key ways across the state.

“We are creating a recruitment pipeline that startsin K-12 and continues through community college and CSU,” Tong said. “We want to help students see themselves as public servants.”

The cybersecurity education pathway may also include certifications provided through CompTIA, one of the world’s leading technology associations. James Stanger, CompTIA’s chief technology evangelist, told the committee that including certifications as art of the cybersecurity pathway ensures that students earn marketable skills in addition to an academic degree.

“Here’s how we can upskill the workforce and here’s an opportunity to meet demand, Stanger said. “Certifications help students apply what they learn. It is all about pragmatic, practical applications of information technology.”

A robust cybersecurity curriculum will include elements of business and technology to ensure that students are able to understand and meet the needs of their future employers.

“Cybersecurity is not just a technical problem, it’s very much a business problem and our workforce needs to be trained accordingly,” Petit said.

California Cyberhub:
A collaborative approach

Collaboration around cybersecurity education is also happening is through the California Cyberhub, a collaboration of public education and industry that is compiling a central library of resources and encouraging support for cybersecurity competitions around the state.

The Cyberhub brings together partners from K-12 education, higher education, government organizations and the cybersecurity industry to provide opportunities for middle and high school students to become interested in cybersecurity at an early age and begin a pathway that leads to a college degree.

Cyberhub Community Manager Donna Woods said that the earlier students become interested in cybersecurity, the more likely
they are to stick with it.

“The Cyberhub offers an opportunity for everyone work together on creating the best learning experience for our students,” Woods said. “We are trying to create a better path for our students moving forward.”

The Cyberhub concept was introduced at the California Cyber Innovation Challenge held at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo over the summer. Bill Britton, the school’s CIO and vice president of information technology, said he looks forward to continuing the discussions started at that event.

“The Cyberhub is one example of a solution to this program. Now we need others,” Britton said. “There are so many things that need to get accomplished and a lot of good work going on across the board.”

While the assembly hearing was taking place, across the street, the State of Cybersecurity Education Summit was underway which brought many of those same education, industry and government leaders together for a discussion on how to shape a cybersecurity curriculum pathway that extends from middle and high school to a college degree.

“The technology community is one community,” Tong said. “You do not need to have the title of a public servant to help protect the public’s assets.”

Looking forward The Joint Oversight Committee encouraged those conversations to continue, both in the area of middle and high school outreach and in the area of college transfer credit articulation. There are currently about 27,000 students who are enrolled in cybersecurity-related classes at California community colleges, but there are far fewer opportunities for them to turn those classes into the degrees employers want to see.

Moving forward, leaders from California Community Colleges, CSUs and UCs will work together to map that pathway for college students across the state.

“We were able to help the committee discover the bottleneck that we have,” said Steve Wright, Information Communication Technology sector navigator in the community college Doing What Matters program. “We received clear instructions from the committee chairs to work together and continue these
conversations moving forward.”

For more information about the California Cyberhub, visit


Guy Smith, Executive Director
(805) 448-0496
[email protected]

Das Williams provides early leadership in alternative credentials to Address Growing Skills Gap in the Workplace

Assembly member Williams at Health Care Roundtable

Assembly member Das Williams (D – Carpinteria) earlier this year led a focus group in alternative credentialing with that has resulted in a CA Community College pilot program utilizing digital badges to encourage students to achieve employment locally.

“As we look to the future in education, it is important that we strategize as a community to meet the changing needs of our workforce.” said Assemblymember Williams.

A result of the focus group has been the implementation of the first California Community College – Santa Barbara City College – to issue digital badges through its Career Skills Institute to address the growing gap between the skills employers need and want, and the skills the students learn.

Melissa V. Moreno J.D., Steve Wright, Lori Gaskin, Ph.D.

According to SBCC Dean of Educational Programs Melissa Moreno, there is a growing body of research showing that employers need a workforce skilled in business soft skills, also known as 21st Century skills, transferable skills or employability skills. “Skills such as communication, team building, management, innovation, critical thinking, writing, and conflict resolution are sorely missing in today’s workforce,” she said.

A focus group convened by Williams and SynED, including Moreno and Cottage Hospital, was a catalyst to the development of these life skills badges.. Since then, SynED has provided implementation and technical support to integrate Pearson applications to manage digital badges.


SynEd is a non-profit organization focusing on the gap between what business employers need and what education can offer. on Listening closely to employers, students, educators and government, SynEd identifies priorities, values and synergies of intention and technology that increase transparency and establish trusted communication between employers, jobseekers and education providers.

SynEd understands the business environment and is able to identify and gain access to key business leaders that can contribute valuable information and appreciate the scope and purpose of educational innovations. SynED does not provide or intend to provide commercial solutions but seeks instead to assure that the complete needs of the workforce education ecosystem are recognized and addressed.

Fellow IT and Cybersecurity Industry and Educators,

I have heard from many of you over the past year, as we supported a number of CA Community College events and programs, that the real challenge for our students is to advance in a skill-based economy while pursuing the typical non-degreed Career Technical Education like IT and Cybersecurity.

Suddenly the CA Assembly gets a great idea! Why not allow CCC Career Technical Education students in IT/Cybersecurity to gain a Bachelor’s Degree! This Applied Science Degree recognizes the hands-on nature and acquired skill set of technology. With advances in IT, Cybersecurity, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and many technological applications, it’s the right time! This degree will allow thousands of current and future IT Tech and Cybersecurity experts to be trained and will support high wage jobs.

We are very excited about this development and would invite you to get involved by sending a note of support to Assemblymember Jose Medina and the entire membership of the Assembly Higher Education committee before March 20th. We have made it easy for you to share your thoughts here and the mailing is automatic…no cost to you. Click here to electronically submit your letter of support.

Do we still need to examine the future varieties of of education and validation? You bet we do. This AB 405 is an overdue step updating the traditional system that is well deserved. There will be many more changes to come!

Please feel free to forward this request to your extended IT-Cybersecurity community who would like to support AB 405 as well. Contact me with any questions at 866-420-4573 xt802 or [email protected].

All the best,

Guy Smith

Executive Director
866.420.4573 xt802
[email protected]

By Beckie Supiano

The emerging conventional wisdom is that America’s post-recession recovery was dominated by the rise of low-paying, part-time service jobs. But a new analysis challenges that narrative, finding that 2.9 million of the 6.6 million jobs added in the recovery were “good jobs” providing high pay and, in many cases, benefits.

That’s the core finding of “Good Jobs Are Back: College Graduates Are First in Line,” a new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. It means that “the economy worked the way it’s supposed to,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, the center’s director and the report’s lead author.

That’s not to say that the recovery has been perfect or that everyone is doing all right. But a recovery tilted toward good jobs fits what economists would expect to see given the economy’s structural shift to higher-skilled jobs and a pattern where more-skilled workers are last to lose jobs in a recession and first to regain them in a recovery, Mr. Carnevale said.

Let’s take a closer look at what the report has to say, and what it can tell us about the job market for college graduates:

What counts as a good job?

Using census data, the authors grouped jobs into 485 occupations, sorted the occupations by median annual earnings, then divided them into three equal tiers. Jobs in the highest-paid tier of occupations are considered good ones, and they paid full-time, full-year workers more than $53,000 a year. A majority of those jobs also come with benefits like health insurance and employer-sponsored retirement plans. A two-earner household where both workers hold jobs in this category has combined earnings in at least the low six figures.

Who is getting the good jobs?

Overwhelmingly, college graduates. Of the 2.9 million good jobs added during the recovery, 2.8 million went to someone with at least a bachelor’s degree.

What types of good jobs accounted for the growth?

Most of the new ones were in managerial, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and health-care professions. Other types of high-skill work did not fare as well. Education occupations lost 184,000 good jobs during the recovery, according to the report.

Why is this analysis of the recovery different from others?

The novelty of the study is how it categorizes jobs. Instead of grouping jobs by industry (the type of employer someone works for), the report groups them by occupation (what someone does on the job).

To explain why that matters, the report uses the home health industry as an example. Home health would be categorized as a low-wage industry because the bulk of its workers are low-paid. But it also employs some high-paid workers, like registered nurses and physical therapists.

Employment for those better-paid positions in home health grew during the recovery. An industry-based categorization would count that as an increase in low-wage jobs. An occupation-based categorization would count it as an increase in high-wage ones.

This report groups all college graduates together, regardless of when they earned their degrees. But aren’t recent grads having a tough time out there?

It depends on your point of comparison. It’s true that recent college graduates have had a harder time in the recession and recovery than have more-experienced ones. But the unemployment rate for recent graduates has come down since the recession, Mr. Carnevale pointed out. And all along the way, they’ve fared much better than did workers with lower levels of education.

“If you’re a college person, and you’re not doing well, just thank your lucky stars” your education didn’t stop at high school, Mr. Carnevale said. “It could be a lot worse.”

What about degree creep? Some workers in good jobs might hold a graduate degree they don’t really need.

It’s true that workers in many occupations have higher levels of education than they did in the past.

Still, Mr. Carnevale disagreed with the popular saying that “a graduate degree is the new bachelor’s degree,” because the wage premium for bachelor’s-degree holders over high-school graduates endures. That’s largely because less-educated workers’ earnings have dropped. But it’s also the case, he said, that the wage premium has held even as larger shares of the population have taken their place on the college-graduate side of the ledger.

That said, graduates in some majors, like psychology and education, do need to get a graduate degree to see the same average earnings as the typical college graduate, Mr. Carnevale said. And even those whose majors are more lucrative get an additional boost from a graduate degree.

It’s not that college graduates need to get advanced degrees to outearn high-school graduates, in other words. But they might need them to keep up with all the other workers with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Beckie Supiano writes about college affordability, the job market for new graduates, and professional schools, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @becksup, or drop her a line at [email protected]. Read the original article at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Recognizing Everyone As A Student For Life