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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UC Online: Ineffectively efficient

The University of California (UC) has recently started enrolling students in online courses through a program called UC Online. This offers courses available to all UC students, which in theory, seems like a great idea. While we appreciate the idea behind the program, it’s important to recognize that online courses can never truly replace a traditional classroom experience.

Online courses offer flexibility for a number of reasons. Cross-campus enrollment allows students from any UC campus to take any online course regardless of whether that course is taught by a professor from their campus. For example, an online psychology course from UC Irvine may have students from UCLA, UC Irvine and UC Davis. It also allows students who commute to take certain classes with more ease.

Students struggling to graduate on time may also find these online classes helpful, as they can take them in addition to a full course load and therefore complete more units. Online courses have the potential to enroll many more students than in a traditional classroom setting. All units from UC online courses are transferable between campuses, so one advantage is that these online courses are encouraging collaboration between campuses.

For Winter Quarter/Spring Semester, UC Online is offering 11 pre-existing courses from four campuses: elementary Spanish and a climate change course from UC Davis; psychology, statistics and American cybercultures from UC Berkeley; pre-calculus and astronomy from UC Irvine; and computer science from UC Riverside, to name a few.

UC Online states on their website that their program differs from massive online open courses (MOOCs) because they aim to have more student-to-instructor interaction and offer real course credit, which MOOCs do not.

With online courses students lose essential interaction time with the professor and fellow students. Typing an answer into a chat box is not the same as simulating the spontaneity of a classroom environment. Online courses also make it easier for students to cheat on quizzes and exams. Although UC Online courses require weekly online discussions, these are not a completely effective replacement for face-to-face interaction and therefore not much better than MOOCs.

While this type of platform has the potential to be effective, it makes it easier for most students to get distracted during lecture. At least you can fall asleep without the professor calling you out.

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