The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.
The University of California is using hyperbolic language to push forward an expansion of the system’s online education program, an unproven and expensive tactic for improving the University’s course offerings.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the UC Board of Regents, UC President Mark Yudof said “It’s not secret that the UC has hit a wall with respect to traditional educational methods.”
Yudof added that it is not financially feasible to continue focusing on improving “brick and mortar,” or traditional education. In addition to the $750,000 grant and the $6.9 million line of credit dedicated to the program, of which a significant amount has been spent, Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent budget proposal suggests both the UC and the CSU receive $10 million to continue developing their online education programs.
The suggestion that online education is a more valuable avenue to develop than in-classroom education is flawed.
The University is pouring millions of dollars into a program for which it has received minimal student input. Steve Montiel, a University of California spokesman, said that input from students who have taken the 13 UC Online classes has been positive so far.But outreach to UC students has been minimal: Student regent Jonathan Stein noted at Wednesday’s meeting that the Regents had no evidence of students interest in the UC Online program.
UC Online currently contains 13 courses through which students can fulfill basic requirements online for credit applicable at any campus. While the UC must adapt to new opportunities and expand its educational model, their tunnel vision focus on online education shows too rapid a move away from traditional in-classroom teaching.
Online courses can be useful to students who need to get a couple of requirements out of the way and want the chance to graduate on time when prerequisite courses are full. However, relying on the development of online education as the UC’s answer to the evolution of higher education, as it was suggested at the meeting, is far too extreme a plan.
While Montiel made it clear that the UC has no intention of completely replacing a classroom education with an online one, Wednesday’s meeting demonstrated a strong preference by the UC Regents to focus, and risk wasting, their efforts on UC Online.
UC Online could serve as an effective supplement to traditional education, but attention might be best spent refining the program’s current offerings.
Before emphasizing the importance of funneling millions of taxpayer dollars into a largely undefined expansion of the program, working with a small-scale program, put together carefully with student input, would be far more beneficial to the students.
In the meantime, much of the financial and working effort the UC is putting into UC Online could be put into improving on-campus educational resources that students definitely need.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Correction: UC Online received a $750,000 grant.