This January, Gov. Jerry Brown cheered on a pilot program at San Jose State University involving a partnership between the university and Palo Alto-based online education company Udacity, as well as the creation of Cal State Online, a platform for virtual classes that earn you various degrees from three CSU brick and mortar campuses: Monterey Bay, Dominguez Hills and Fullerton
Now San Francisco State has also hopped on the online education train, with 61 online course offerings coming for this spring semester and plans to increase that number, according to Golden Gate Express.
SF State’s cinema department also offers an example of how online education could provide answers to many urgent problems facing the California state education system, from lack of funding and over-enrollment to decline in access and quality.
In fall 2011, the cinema department was way over capacity, serving 200 students more than its normal enrollment. According to Golden Gate Xpress, such over-enrollment was the result of students falling behind in their academic paths — a common problem in the CSU and UC system where classes are so impacted it’s incredibly difficult for students to get the classes they need to graduate on time.
So the department decided to make moves online. They hired an online program developer and online course technician to build their online presence with flash-built websites that now serve 500 students.
There’s no more bottlenecking, and by also offering courses through the College of Extended Learning, the cinema department has enough revenue to pay off the online course technician’s salary and purchase new technology in the future.
Brian Beatty, SF State associate vice president for Academic Affairs Operations, told Golden Gate Express:
“The CSU administration would like the campuses to serve more students, more effectively with constrained resources, and the SFSU administration supports that initiative.”
Proponents laud online education as a struggling system’s saving grace that will save schools and students money while increasing access, quality and flexibility. Massive online open classroom providers such as Udacity can provide hundreds of courses, often at no cost, that students can access anywhere, at any time.
However, critics argue there is no supplement for in-person interaction when it comes to education, that online classes open up space for technical issues, cheating and less challenging courses.
It is also a resource issue, Wei Ming Dariotis, SF State chapter president of the California Faculty Association, said:
“A lot of people say just make courses online, but don’t understand the teacher has to learn a new tool and learn how to implement it. They have to test it out. Most faculty [members] like to learn new things, but have other realities, like getting tenure and getting promoted.”
Golden Gate Xpress reported that as SF State’s online presence grows, the university will provide support and training for faculty.
Not to mention, Gov. Brown made a hefty $37 million investment in online education in his latest budget plan.
At a January news conference in conjunction with the launch of San Jose State’s online program, he said:
“This is an exciting moment in the intellectual history of our state and of our university…and, you know, whatever the damn thing costs, it’s going to be a hell of a lot cheaper than high-speed rail.”