UC Berkeley Faculty Association Comes Out Against MOOC Bill

An online petition opposing the measure that would require California Public Universities to grant online credit for courses offered by approved online course providers has drawn over 1,600 signatures already, The Daily Californian reports. The measure, called SB 520 and introduced in California State Senate, would require schools making up the Cal State, UC and Community College systems to accept for credit courses offered by MOOC providers like Udacity and Coursera.

The petition is being sponsored by the UC Berkeley Faculty Association – a group that has come out swinging against the bill almost as soon as it was announced. The petition says that the proposal is a wrongheaded way of addressing accessibility and affordability issues surrounding higher education in the state.

"This bill will lower academic standards (particularly in key skills such as writing, math, and basic analysis), augment the educational divide along socioeconomic lines, and diminish the ability for underrepresented minorities to excel in higher education," the petition reads.

Steinberg could not be reached for comment on the petition.

The petition has been circulating since late last month and a copy was forwarded to Steinberg who had no comment at the time. But earlier that month he released a statement pointing out that more than 7,000 students in California Public University system were stuck on waiting lists for courses critical to their graduation scheduled.

More than 80% of 112 community college courses had waiting lists as well.

But Philip Stark, a signatory of the petition and a UC Berkeley professor of statistics, disagrees.

"I have taught hybrid courses, large for-credit online courses, and a (massively open online course) with about 52,000 students," Stark said in a comment on the petition. "It is quite difficult to approach the pedagogical quality of a good face-to-face course with an online course. If there are to be UC-quality online courses, they likely will come from UC and from its peer institutions, not from just any commercial provider."

Other groups opposed to the bill are UC Academic Senate which published an open letter to its members last week expressing concerns over how the drafting process for the measure was handled. In the letter, it was pointed out that the bill was put together without any input from university faculty or administrators.

According to Steinberg, even if the measure has no chance of passage the discussion it has inspired in the higher education sphere is important enough. He pointed out that with tuition growth outpacing income growth, without some radical intervention it won't be long before a college education is completely beyond the means of an average middle class American family.

Steinberg wants to find a way to fix the problem that over 7,000 students remain on waiting lists for community college slots in the state, while fewer than 16% graduate from the public university system in four years.

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