To educate students in an environment in which technology is continually changing, community colleges need to have long‑term plans, as well as plans for periodically replacing and upgrading information technology (IT) equipment and support structures. Community colleges must also address the needs of students with disabilities to access websites and other technology as well as class materials. Federal and state accessibility laws require colleges to make all class materials available, upon request, in a format that is accessible to students with disabilities, and to ensure that websites meet guidelines for accessibility.
California’s community colleges are required to plan for IT needs as part of their accreditation process. The foundation of these efforts is a technology master plan that identifies technology needs at the college. These needs may relate to technology infrastructure—items such as networking devices and devices that enable wireless communication, that allow the colleges to transmit information, and that support the general operations of the campuses. Colleges also need instructional technology, such as laptop computers in math labs, to support student learning.
For this audit, we reviewed three community college districts: Foothill–De Anza Community College District (Foothill–De Anza), Los Rios Community College District (Los Rios), and Cerritos Community College (Cerritos), a single‑college district. In addition, we reviewed one individual college within each of the multicollege districts: De Anza College (De Anza) in Foothill–De Anza and American River College (American River) in Los Rios. Specifically, we reviewed the colleges’ compliance with federal and state accessibility standards. We also reviewed the colleges’ and districts’ processes for upgrading and replacing IT equipment, including their planning processes and financing. This report draws the following conclusions:
Community colleges are not adequately monitoring compliance with accessibility standards, and the Chancellor’s Office should provide additional guidance to assist community colleges in supporting students with disabilities.
None of the three community colleges we reviewed are monitoring their performance in responding to requests from students with disabilities for course materials in accessible media formats (alternate media), and one college has not established a goal for how long it should take to process these requests. These colleges also do not have processes to monitor whether they comply with accessibility standards for instructional materials, nor has the Office of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges (Chancellor’s Office) provided guidance to the colleges in either of these areas because it has focused its guidance in other areas and has limited staffing. As a result, the colleges cannot demonstrate that they are meeting students’ requests for accessible materials within a reasonable time frame. When students do not have equal access to instructional materials and their requests for an alternate format are not addressed promptly, they do not have equal educational opportunities.
Community college districts plan for and fund IT needs but lack written procedures to guide their processes.
The three community college districts and colleges we reviewed have some processes and tools for replacing or upgrading their technology equipment. However, they have not formalized these processes to ensure consistency and continuity in the future. The Chancellor’s Office does not provide guidance to all of the community college districts and colleges related to upgrading or replacing IT equipment. Additionally, each of the districts and colleges reviewed has a technology master plan, but Cerritos’ plan is not up to date and does not include detailed steps to implement its master plan. American River also lacks steps to implement its master plan. Further, college instructional departments could not consistently provide documentation showing the stakeholder input received when deciding on what information technology to replace or upgrade.
Without formalizing their processes by documenting procedures for instructional department staff to follow when making decisions on IT equipment, the community colleges cannot ensure that these processes are consistently followed and are transparent. The Chancellor’s Office provided some guidance on implementing decision‑making processes. However, this guidance does not address documentation of input, attendees, or agreements reached at college governance or department meetings, including those to consider technology equipment requests. Lastly, the colleges offer technology training and assistance to faculty, staff, and students and various opportunities for these stakeholders to provide input on technology training needs.
Summary of Recommendations
- To ensure that all community colleges are complying with timeliness requirements, by June 2018, the Chancellor’s Office should establish guidance for the colleges on monitoring their effectiveness in responding to students’ requests for instructional materials in alternate media formats in a timely manner. At a minimum, this guidance should provide direction to community colleges on establishing a time‑frame goal for completing student requests and on establishing procedures to periodically monitor their performance in meeting those goals.
- To ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to instructional materials, by June 2018, the Chancellor’s Office should develop guidance for the community colleges on periodically monitoring the accessibility of instructional materials.
- To assist all community college districts and colleges in ensuring that they have consistent, transparent, and continuous implementation of their processes for upgrading and replacing IT equipment, by September 2018, the Chancellor’s Office should issue guidance to the districts and community colleges on establishing written procedures for those processes.
- To assist all community colleges in increasing transparency of their decision‑making processes, by September 2018, the Chancellor’s Office should issue guidance to the community colleges on establishing procedures to document the attendees, input received, and agreements reached during department meetings, including those to consider IT equipment requests.
Community Colleges and Districts
- To ensure that they are fulfilling requests for alternate media services from students with disabilities in a timely manner, by June 2018, American River, Cerritos, and De Anza should each establish procedures for monitoring their timeliness in responding to such requests so that they can periodically review their performance in completing the requests. Additionally, to evaluate its performance, De Anza should establish a time‑frame goal for completing alternate media requests.
- To ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to instructional materials, by June 2018, American River, Cerritos, and De Anza should each develop procedures to monitor and periodically review the accessibility of instructional materials.
- To ensure the consistent, transparent, and continuous implementation of processes for technology equipment upgrades and replacements, by June 2018, Cerritos, Los Rios, and Foothill–De Anza districts, and American River should each establish written procedures for these processes.
- To ensure that it fully implements its technology master plan, by June 2018, American River should establish an implementation plan with detailed steps for achieving the goals in its master plan that it has not yet accomplished. Also, by June 2018, Cerritos should update its technology master plan, including detailed steps to accomplish its master plan goals.
- To increase the transparency of their annual review processes, by June 2018, American River, Cerritos, and De Anza should establish procedures to document a summary of the input each receives and agreements reached during meetings to consider instructional IT requests.
The Chancellors Office, Cerritos, and Foothill–De Anza agreed with our recommendations. Los Rios agreed with several of our recommendations and indicated that it plans to undertake steps to implement them. However, it disagreed with our recommendation to include a requirement in its next collective bargaining negotiations for instructors to periodically attend accessibility trainings.