The University of California recently launched the planning phase of a two-year trial determining whether online undergraduate courses can uphold UC standards.
The UC Online Instruction Pilot Program, which started last week, will offer up to 25 courses in various disciplines. The UC Office of the President projected that each course will be taught at least once by December 2012.
Faculty members from across the UC system will accumulate a list of online classes by Dec. 13.
Although individual UC Extension programs currently offer approximately 1,200 online courses for undergraduate and graduate students, few are available for UC credit.
Do Quyen Tran-Taylor, an analyst for the Academic Planning Analyst, Programs and Coordination Dept., said the project will investigate whether online instruction is suitable for UC courses.
“We think that online would slowly, organically grow at the UCs and nationally,” Tran-Taylor said. “What UC is trying to do now is to create a research project where we look at online, instead of leaving it up to trial and error.”
According to a UCOP press release, faculty and staff members will be active in the decision process, providing feedback on the development and effectiveness of courses. Furthermore, online courses must be approved by a faculty-led evaluation team before implementation.
Additionally, Tran-Taylor said an advisory board is currently examining how aspects of the undergraduate experience, including student-teacher and student-student interaction, will translate in the new medium.
UC Berkeley student Masaki Yamada, a second-year chemical engineering major, said he took advantage of an online course at his local community college in order to complete his General Education requirements.
“The class was fine but definitely not UC-standard,” Yamada said. “If it had been important to my studies or my major, I wouldn’t have taken it online.”
However, Yamada said online courses would offer flexibility to students with busy schedules.
“If the UC system tried to offer expanded online instruction, it could be very positive because you’d really have your own time schedule to work it,” Yamada said.
High school senior Michael Guagliardo said he enrolled in classes through Santa Barbara City College’s online school to get a head start in transferring to UCSB.
“I had no idea what to expect from the classes at all and I was kind of overwhelmed,” Guagliardo said. “After that experience, I am not going to take another science class online ever again. I would rather have the experience of having a teacher. There’s a difference between getting information and getting education.”