Governor pushes for online education reform

Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to streamline distance education for community colleges statewide.

Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to streamline distance education for community colleges statewide.

California Governor Jerry Brown has proposed state funding to increase offerings on Internet courses and graduate students more quickly.

Brown’s proposed 2013-14 budget provides $16.9 million to community colleges to increase the number of courses available through technology and $10 million each for the University of California and California State University. Priority will be given to development of courses that serve more students while receiving equal or better learning experiences.

Funding would go to classes that have the highest demand and are prerequisite classes for many different degrees. Brown wants a way to keep students’ costs down and ensure they can get the classes they need to graduate within a timely manner.

The proposed budget is broken down into three parts. First will be to create a “virtual campus” to increase statewide student access to 250 new courses through technology.

Second is to create a centralized delivery and support infrastructure for all courses through technology for all colleges.

Third would be the option of having students take exams and receive credit on subjects based on knowlege they recieved from other sources.

The CSU system has begun putting more importance into their online classes by introducing Cal State Online. Through the program, students can earn two bachelors’ degrees and four masters’ degrees from Cal State Fullerton, Dominguez Hills, or Monterey Bay. Cal State Online grants students the same benefits as students taking courses at a campus.

San Jose State has partnered with Udacity, a Silicon Valley startup, to offer San Jose State Plus, online classes for academic credit. These are called MOOCs, or massive open online courses. This program is offering three classes: entry-level math, college algebra, and elementary statistics, which often over-enrolled because students need them in order to graduate. The fee for each class is $150.

Verification is one of the more challenging aspects of having MOOCs. With an average of 33,000 students per course, it’s hard to know if the work being turned in belongs to the enrolled student. Director of distance education and English professor Beverly Van Citters said, “I have a mandatory orientation and have students do a writing sample.” Getting to know a student’s work is achievable with a couple of hundred students, but when the total equals thousands it is harder to confirm who does the work.

In fall of 2012, Citrus College had a success rate of 61 percent in online classes compared to 74 percent in traditional classes. The retention rate for Citrus College in online classes is 87 percent compared to 95 percent in traditional classes.

When compared to statewide rates, distance education had a success rate of 61 percent and retention rate of 81 percent, while traditional classes had success rate of 71 percent and retention rate of 87 percent.

Many students have a presumption that online classes will be easier, but unless you are very good with time management, it is not. Online courses can and probably will be the future, but for now there are many aspects of technology driven courses that need to be explored.


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