UC may offer all-online degree

University of California leaders want to offer an online bachelor’s degree comparable in quality to its prestigious campus programs, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We want to do a highly selective, fully online, credit-bearing program on a large scale – and that has not been done,” said UC Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley, who is leading the effort.

But a number of skeptical faculty members and graduate student instructors fear that a cyber UC would deflate the university’s five-star education into a fast-food equivalent, cheapening the brand. Similar complaints at the University of Illinois helped bring down that school’s ambitious Global Campus program last fall after just two years.

Tomorrow, UC regents  will hear about a pilot program of 25 to 40 courses, which will be developed if UC can raise $6 million from private donors. In the short term, the university needs alternatives to crowded writing and math classes. In the long term, Edley hopes to expand access to a UC education, collect more tuition money and spend less per student.

The model is Stanford University’s online graduate engineering degree, which is highly respected and open to students who never set foot in California.

“Within 30 minutes of a class being taught at Stanford, we’re able to offer it around the world,” said Andy DiPaolo, senior associate dean at the School of Engineering. “We think in many ways it’s comparable (in quality). “

Stanford uses the same admissions process and requirements for online and traditional degrees.

A Berkeley Faculty Association report knocked the online plan:

“The danger is not only degraded education, but centralized academic policy that undermines faculty control of academic standards and curriculum,” it said. “It is also likely that the whole thing will be a boondoggle.”

Furthermore, the report said, online instruction is “inappropriate for many subjects and types of learning.”

UC Online needs a “coalition of the willing,” Edley said, “not universal support.”

UC shouldn’t rush into cyber-education, write a coalition of unwilling professors in the Chronicle. Doing it well requires a lot of money — with no guarantee that the education will match the “face-to-face dialogue that is the hallmark of university education.”

UC’s online efforts should focus on serving California students who hope to transfer to the university, not on marketing the “UC Brand” across the globe, the professors argue. A global UC “would require outsourcing teaching to part-timers who are not researchers, resulting in a decline in quality for those students who are our primary responsibility.”

Furthermore, “simply to extract bits of teaching and put them online out of context would sever the links between teaching and research that make UC special.”

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  1. “simply to extract bits of teaching and put them online out of context would sever the links between teaching and research that make UC special”

    How often is currently-in-progress, not-yet-published research really referenced in undergraduate classes?

  2. the “face-to-face dialogue that is the hallmark of university education.”

    I have two children with bachelors degrees in the past decade from different UC campuses. They had no face-to-face dialog with faculty ever.

    However, one is now in a masters program with valuable faculty interaction.

  3. Offering a class online is not the same thing as offering a lecture online.

  4. Foobarista says:

    I’ve often wondered about the vaunted “connection” between undergrad (in particular) teaching and research, since in my experience, my best teachers were at junior college. The profs at Berkeley were rather indifferent although there were a few really good ones.

    As far as I can tell, research is a distraction from teaching (most profs would likely say teaching is a distraction from research), not a complement to it.

  5. I can see that this would begin to siphon off the state college students whose families aspired to a more prestigious university.

  6. Siphon them off? The state universities are already turning them away. An online program would more likely draw students who had trouble finding placement in a traditional school.


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