The UC system is offering a preparatory calculus class at UC Merced for its first online course and aims to expand the option to all nine of its undergraduate campuses by the end of the year.
The UC Online Instruction Pilot Project is designed to test the feasibility of offering certain courses on the internet to offset growing class sizes and also aims to increase course accessibility to non-UC students. The online classes are currently available to UC students and will eventually be open to the public as a means of furthering the program’s economic viability.
UC Office of the President Spokesperson Steve Montiel said the initial classes will help the administration evaluate the best method for simulating an engaging classroom setting online.
“This is a pilot, really — it’s a research project,” Montiel said. “There are over 20 different faculty involved in the project, and they all have different approaches. This is designed to learn how and whether online education can work within the UC system.”
However, third-year psychology major James Berges said the plan will lead to students paying for a lower-quality education.
“GauchoSpace is already free,” Berges said. “It seems backwards for students to suddenly begin paying for something like that as if it’s the standard of education.”
The program’s initial phase will be sustained with a $6.9 million contribution from UC Chief Financial Officer Peter Taylor.
According to Montiel, the online courses will help the UC share its educational opportunities with new demographics.
“There was interest from the beginning in making UC-quality education accessible to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it,” Montiel said.
UCSB will offer Geography 12, taught by Professor Keith Clarke, from the program’s 20 available courses.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology operates a similar system called MITx; the program’s course material is open to anyone, but certification is only provided following payment.
Despite the similarities between the two systems, Montiel said the UC’s project is unique in its scope and potential to expand.
“Nothing has been done at this scale at any public research university,” Montiel said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn from this project and apply that learning to the future.”