Tuesday, March 28

UCLA may offset increasing enrollment with added online classes

Increases in student enrollment is one of the factors that contributed to a 35-class increase in online courses offered over the past three years, said an undergraduate student government council member.

The increase in online classes from three offered in 2013 to 38 offered now is a response to the growing number of students enrolled in the University of California system, said Trent Kajikawa, Undergraduate Students Association Council Academic Affairs commissioner.

The UC Board of Regents plans to increase UC enrollment by an additional 10,000 undergraduates over the next three years, in accordance with the budget deal UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown struck last May.

“Getting classes is going to be harder and harder,” Kajikawa said. “Online education is a way to mitigate this (problem for) students.”

Kajikawa said he thinks online classes are also a response to the decrease in state funding UCLA has received since 2008. State funding to UCLA decreased from $643 million in 2008 to $454 million in 2015, but has slowly increased over the past five years.

“This decrease in state funding cuts into operations such as academics,” Kajikawa said. “We need alternatives to fund a high-quality education.”

The state will allocate $356 million more to the UC in 2016, a 4.7 percent increase from last year, according to Gov. Brown’s January budget proposal. Brown will release a revised proposal in May, and the state legislature will finalize the plan in June.

Jim Davis, vice provost of the UCLA Office of Information Technology, said in 2013 UCLA officials had been looking into online education as a way of mitigating tuition hikes for students.

Kajikawa said some students take online classes to accommodate their busy schedules. He added he is enrolled in a fully online version of Spanish 3 because it allows him to balance his other responsibilities.

Claire McCluskey, associate registrar at the UCLA Registrar’s Office, said in an email statement there was a 3.9 percent increase in student enrollment in fully online courses, from fall 2014 to fall 2015.

Harold Shi, a third-year anthropology student who has taken online classes, said he thinks they feel impersonal, because professors have fewer opportunities to speak to students face to face.

“Online classes don’t feel as immersive as an actual class would be,” Shi said.

Russell Schuh, a linguistics professor who has taught three fully online classes, said he thinks students are more engaged in an online setting.

“My experience is students are actually more interactive online than in live discussion sessions, because students are essentially anonymous and not afraid of sounding silly in front of their peers,” he said.

Sociology professor William Roy said he thinks introductory courses are best for the online setting, but classes that require considerable interaction between professors and students are more successful in a physical classroom.

“The more direct interaction required between teacher and student, the less (classes) works online,” Roy said. “Laboratory classes, skills such as playing a musical instrument or monitoring chemical results, don’t work well online.”

Roy added UCLA’s sociology department plans to experiment with online courses before introducing more, to analyze their effectiveness.

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