Online education is a hot topic for the University of California system, and at a meeting on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, the implementation of the system’s new online courses was duly discussed by the University Regents.
The prevailing sentiment from this discussion was one of expansion that intends to adapt to the changing needs of UC students while attempting to preserve an interactive classroom environment despite this non-traditional method of education being criticized. The goal with online education is not to replace the standard university course, but to act as a supplement for students whose needs are not being satisfied by courses offered at their particular campus, as emphasized by the Regents.
With a detailed presentation of the rationale behind online classes, the logistics of how this system would work, and preliminary feedback from students at different UCs, Provost Aimée Dorr led the discussion. By presenting the concept in terms of a more flexible academic experience that still retains UCs core values, Dorr made the case for online classes.
“Spanish 3 is a requirement at UCLA; however, it is only offered every day of the week,” the student testimony read. “Because I have an internship two full days (Tuesday and Friday, 9-5), I cannot take a class every day.”
Explaining that faculty submitted proposals for online courses that would be offered on multiple campuses for multiple years, Dorr detailed how professors have been working with the Regents to design appropriate classes. With both younger professors and well-established ones that have been teaching for as long as 50 years, she believes that the faculty teaching online classes would be similar to those of a traditional class environment.
However, she admitted few issues are yet to be resolved, such as the relatively high cost of implementing online courses. In addition, she said that working on a more realistic budget would be a priority. Similar concerns on the issue of finances, bringing up the point that future development for this project is dependent on state funding, were voiced by the Associated Students External Vice President at UC San Diego, Vanessa Garcia. Demanding a stronger presence for arts and humanities classes and questioning how classes in these fields would even fit in an online environment were some critiques Garcia had during the discussion.
Nonetheless, there remained the larger issue of how interactive these courses would be, if at all, amid a discussion of course logistics, which included a walk-through on how to sign up. This is a concern of many students, as they believe that part of the university experience is that of physically attending class.
As Audrey Ronningen of The Bottom Line reports, the importance of interactivity was valued by UC Santa Barbara Associated Students President Jonathan Abboud and External Vice President Alex Choate.