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.”