UC Davis offers some online courses. Some believe that they will save the university money and deliver education more efficiently; the idea here is that far more students can be taught with fewer faculty. Others argue that they have various problems: lower success rate with underprepared students, lower success rate with students lacking in self-motivation and established study habits, loss of personal relationship between faculty and student and between students, inability to engage students in critical thinking in person or in writing because of the large numbers involved, loss of an intellectual community.
A variant on purely online courses is the hybrid course, where part of the course is taught online and part face-to-face. These are generally not controversial, with most faculty thinking that online components of a course can enhance the classroom experience.
Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are another variant; these may be produced by one university yet available worldwide. As a source of self-education, these are not controversial, but when degree credits are offered for them, concerns such as grading of written assignments have been raised; some MOOCs are designed to use peer-to-peer grading.
Governor Jerry Brown has argued for an increased use of online courses throughout California's public higher education system. On March 14, 2013, a bill was introduced (SB 520) that would require UC, CSU, and the Community Colleges to grant credit for third-party online courses as the equivalent of specified lower division course that are prerequisite to timely progress toward students’ degrees. The next day, the Chair and Vice Chair of UCD's Academic Senate wrote a response, which is available here. The letter states that "Senate Bill 520 raises grave concerns" and points out that faculty were not consulted in the writing of the legislation. Three problems are identified with the proposed legislation: 1) the problems with students access to some courses is the result of reductions in public state higher education funding, 2) there is clear self-interest of for-profit corporations in promoting the privatization of public higher education, and 3) the bill would cede the faculty's authority to approve and review courses to an outside agency.
On 3/21/2013, the Davis Faculty Association sent an email to faculty, inviting them to add their names to a petition that originated with the Berkeley Faculty Association, and which is addressed to Sen. Darrell Steinberg (CA-6), the sponsor of SB 520, asking him to withdraw or modify SB 520. Petition here. The text of the petition reads:
Dear Senator Steinberg,
In short, SB 520 is deeply flawed. We believe it will worsen the conditions you say you hope it will ameliorate. We urge you to consult with UC, CSU, and CCC faculty and other experts to enlist their help in devising a well-designed piece of legislation that will truly help students, while protecting the quality of the education they have the right to expect – and that we, as University of California faculty, have the duty to provide them.
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