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Yiwei Sun: UC online course program should enhance variety, integration

(Kelly Brennan/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Yiwei Sun

Jan. 5, 2016 11:32 p.m.

Online courses are normally popular due to the flexibility they entail. However, courses provided through the University of California Cross-Campus Enrollment still have a long way to go in terms of attracting more students.

UC Cross-Campus Enrollment was launched November 2013 by the UC Office of the President, and now offers 29 coursesfor winter 2016. The service is available to registered UC students, and aims to increase access to courses that could not be offered normally due to small class size or that are unique to individual campuses. The sharing of these courses online is designed to provide more options for students.

In the past year, the online enrollment portal has also partially integrated with each campus’ own UC enrollment portals so that students – such as those at UCLA – can use their logon ID to log in the UC Cross-Campus Enrollment platform.

Yet there remains strong competition from online education providers such as Global Freshman Academy at Arizona State University, which provides a cheap, credited and accessible university education with a significantly larger amount of classes and a more flexible system. UC Cross-Campus Enrollment needs to improve both in terms of major or general education required classes and technical support to keep up with schools like ASU that offer more robust online programs.

To improve its effectiveness, the UC Cross-Campus Enrollment can enact three changes. Firstly, it could introduce more courses to increase the diversity of classes offered. Secondly, it could improve the evaluation system to better account for the existing course units to so that more classes can fulfill major or general education requirement. Last, the online registration portal could also be streamlined for greater convenience.

The UC has the advantage of having a few top-notch public schools in the system, and improving on the UC Cross-Campus Enrollment can allow students to benefit from the courses offered elsewhere and maximize the gain from limited resources.

Currently, many general education classes offered could only serve as general education or major requirements at only a few campuses. A thorough and thoughtful reevaluation of the existing courses would help to make the enrollment process more meaningful and attract students to look at UC Cross-Campus Enrollment as a good alternative to their own universities’ online courses. Offering more general education classes is also in concert with the UC’s intention to make sure students can graduate on time through greater availability of required courses.

There is no consistent way how campuses evaluate course units. For example, at UC Berkeley, many courses offered by other UCs are recognized as unit credit only but do not count for other requirements. To incentivize all campuses to apply the credit equally, the UC Office of the President can create uniform online credit guidelines and work with schools to ensure that the courses are are providing sufficient rigor. It’s possible that with semester schools like UC Berkeley and UC Merced, this could be an issue; however, a middle ground that covers all the necessary information despite the time differences can be achieved.

Additionally, the Innovative Learning Technology Initiative office can also improve the online portal so that it can determine students’ enrollment eligibility straightaway with information from the home portal. Right now after the online application, students have to wait for the confirmation from their home campus before they can start the course, so it’s difficult for students to get enrolled and start learning on the same day. Eliminating this wait will save students time as well as reduce home campus enrollment officers’ workload to determine students’ eligibility manually one by one. While this will cost some money, it shouldn’t be hard to convince Gov. Jerry Brown to allocate additional funds given Brown’s notable affinity toward online education.

In terms of specific technical support, UC Cross-Campus Enrollment could devote more efforts into shortening the enrollment procedure. It can work with technical officers to directly gather students’ information from their home campus’ portal so that students will no longer need to fill out all their personal info that their home campus already has again after logging in.

In the long term, the UC is planning to increase its enrollment in the coming years. Enhancing the online platform can help to accommodate the increasing demand for more courses and faculty members while allowing students to have more flexible enrollment choices.

UC Cross-Campus Enrollment has empowered many students and faculty members to experiment with novel ways to learn and to teach in the last three years. Yet without some immediate changes, the program risks stagnation. Continuing the investment in online education is the best way to prevent its waste.

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Yiwei Sun | Opinion columnist
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