Californians More Excited About Online Education, But Skeptical, Too

A recently published poll shows that Californians are growing increasingly enthusiastic about online learning, the Los Angeles Times reports. The poll commissioned jointly by the Los Angeles Times and USC Dornsife surveyed the opinions of registered voters, 59% of whom agreed with the statement that adding more online classes to California public university system will go a long way toward making higher education in the state both more accessible and more affordable.

However, the positive finding was counterbalanced somewhat by the fact that 34% of respondents remained weary of online education expansion. They felt that adding more online offerings might diminish the value of a college degree and limit access to professors while not providing any cost benefits to offset the damage.

The support for online education comes as government and university leaders nationwide are debating whether to expand those computerized classes that usually include videotaped lectures and digital chat rooms. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed giving the University of California and California State University systems each $10 million more next year to add online offerings, despite some faculty skepticism. Several California public universities have joined with such commercial providers as Coursera and Udacity for online courses that enroll thousands of students at a time.

The breakdown of the data shows that support for online education beaks the common stereotypes that older people are less likely to embrace technology. As a matter of fact, people over 50 were more likely to think adding online courses was a good idea than people between the ages of 18 and 49. Sixty percent of older registered voters thought that online courses should be more available – as long as they're not required – while only 58% of younger voters shared that point of view.

Such a broad response probably is due to rising familiarity with all sorts of technology, suggested Drew Lieberman, a vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm that conducted the poll with American Viewpoint, a Republican company.

"I think … this is becoming pretty standard operating procedure in both how we live and how education is accessed," he said. "The online world is less of a threat and becoming more of an accepted resource for all generations."

Among those who expressed reservations, many cited higher potential for cheating as one of their concerns. Some, however, simply felt that instruction delivered over the internet just wasn't as good as lessons taught face-to-face.

One respondent, Adriana Martinez, had a unique perspective on the issue because she graduated with a traditional degree in Cal State Fullerton and subsequently went on to earn a real estate broker's license using an online training program. She was one of the people who thought that quality would become an issue if more online courses were required.

"It's the lack of interaction more than anything," said Martinez, 23.

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