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Editorial: High Hopes for First Online Community College

Online education has not lived up to its hype yet, but if any state can make a go of it, it should be California, the tech capital of the world. The online college is the brainchild of former Gov. Jerry Brown.

(TNS) — Heather Hiles, a former tech entrepreneur and senior official with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is expected to begin work today as the first president and CEO of former Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet project: California’s first and only online community college. Hiles’ background and ambition seem perfect for the online college, which has as its goal helping the millions of adults who lack a college degree or certificate they need to get well-paying jobs and to begin promising careers. To achieve this goal, the online college will offer specialized courses that are specifically designed to qualify students for existing jobs and that can be finished in a year — a format unlike any seen in the state’s other 114 community colleges.

This aligns perfectly with the thinking of new Gov. Gavin Newsom, who used his State of the State speech last week to announce his plan to create a Commission on California’s Workforce and the Future of Work. Newsom said that the state “needs a comprehensive statewide strategy to uplift and upskill our workers, to ensure technological advancements in [artificial intelligence], blockchain, big data, are creating jobs, not destroying them.”

Of all the bold proposals that Newsom has laid out in his first six weeks on the job, this is among the most important. The technological advances that accelerate our economy’s “creative destruction” of entire industries can be harnessed to help workers avoid obsolescence and learn new job skills throughout their lives.

While online education has so far not lived up to some of its early hype, its promise remains obvious. If any state can figure out how to make it work, it should be California, the tech capital of the world. Here’s hoping Hiles and Newsom lead the way.

©2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.