Last week, the UC Commission on the Future came up with several ideas to reduce the impact of the budget deficit. One scheme expanding access to courses is online instruction through a pilot program that tests its effects.
As technology increasingly and inevitably comes to the forefront of daily activities, the pilot program should be explored further with careful skepticism. It is important that the move toward implementing classes online does not diminish the educational experience simply to save money.
With a pilot program, the university can determine what is feasible for an online system and what is not. There is the possibility that students will be able to take certain classes, which are not offered here, from other campuses while still fulfilling their major requirements. “Hybrid” education could consist of part face-to-face and part online time.
For example, lecture material could be presented online, while students attend the required discussion sections. That way, students will still have the ability to interact with their professors and participate in an instructional setting.
Moreover, online courses must provide a greater range of options of education for the student who works a full time job, the student who commutes to campus daily or the student who learns better in an individual setting.
On the other hand, UC must not lose sight of the fact that its world-class teaching is what draws so many students to their respective universities. That cannot easily be replicated in an online environment. Students should not be forced to take online courses as a substitution for classroom instruction. The university should base their available online sections off of student demand, not cost concerns.
Refining online instruction system will take some time to take off, transitions to technology-based teaching are inevitable. High start-up costs will pay for themselves over time. This is a new way to cope with decreasing resources.