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UCLA begins selecting pilot online courses, focusing on increasing access to impacted lower-division classes

By Brittany Chu

Jan. 18, 2011 1:21 a.m.

UCLA students are one step closer to taking online courses for full credit.

As of Dec. 13, professors who were interested in teaching pilot classes have submitted their proposals to the university. Administrators are now in the process of selecting which proposed courses will ultimately be set in motion.

Once these are selected, a team of faculty members will work to develop online content. The school hopes to begin offering as many as 25 online courses by January of 2012.

At that point, students will be able to sign up for online classes as they would lecture-based ones, said Jim Davis, vice provost of information technology.

The university will focus attention on lower-division, undergraduate courses that students have a hard time enrolling in because of high demand, Davis said. These include courses in chemistry, statistics and freshman composition.

A likely candidate for the online format is Statistics 10, which was proposed by Jan de Leeuw, distinguished professor and chair of the UCLA Department of Statistics.

De Leeuw said that in developing Statistics 10, he would work to minimize differences between content taught online versus in a traditional lecture setting. He also spoke to the benefits of being able to teach in a new format.

“If you design online courses, you can at least in principle reach an entirely new class of students,” de Leeuw said.

Students who work full-time, for example, might have more access to the courses that they need, he said.

Ashley Chiu, a first-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, said she fears some concepts ““ math especially ““ may be more difficult to master over the Internet.

But for Michelle Henkhaus, a first-year undeclared life sciences student, online courses could be a welcome option in lower-division classes that are hard to get into.

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