A $748,000 grant given to the University of California will allow campuses systemwide to start offering online classes. UC Davis is expected to offer as many as six of these courses beginning winter 2012.
The development of an online program will cost UC an average of $75,000 per course. This is a sure money-saving technique in difficult financial times and it is good to see university officials exploring all options to close the budget deficit.
Despite UC’s current financial state, the quality of classes shouldn’t be sacrificed to save a buck.
There is no substitute for an in-class experience. Not only are actual courses more beneficial to students, these classes will hold more weight with a potential employer. After all, there is a reason that online universities have less clout than four-year institutions.
While there is a place for online classes at UC, they should only be used as a last resort – for example, if somebody is one class shy of graduation. Online courses shouldn’t be implemented for classes that require face-to-face interaction, such as language classes.
Even though online classes can have beneficial effects for UC, one potential deal-breaker is that they present unbalanced opportunities to students. For instance, students taking Arnold Bloom’s Science and Society 25, Global Climate Change: Convergence of Biological, Geophysical and Social Sciences, will have two 50-minute lectures per week. Students taking the course’s online version will get five 20-minute sessions.
This seems fair, as both groups will receive 100 minutes of instruction. However, it presents an inequitable opportunity because students in the actual class will have access to in-class meetings as well as online lectures, while those taking it strictly online will only see the online sessions. All of these students will pay the same tuition, but not receive the same benefits.