Technology

California Dreaming: Remaking Online Education at the U. of California

May 09, 2010

Officials at the University of California system have proposed an expansion of online efforts in the midst of a fiscal crisis, in an attempt to provide for-credit courses to a greater number of students. The proposal contrasts sharply with the system's current online program:

Now

University of California campuses currently enroll more than 25,000 students each year online. But nearly all of them are in courses that are part of graduate or extension programs; undergraduate students cannot typically take those courses for credit.

One campus, Berkeley, offers eight online classes to undergraduates during the summer. The largest one, an introductory course in statistics and probability, enrolls 500 students. Another campus, Irvine, offers a series of smaller online courses that undergraduates can take during the summer.

The Future

Short-term: A pilot project will create online versions of roughly 25 high-enrollment, entry-level courses. Here's a preliminary list of those courses (or course series) and their average annual enrollments, systemwide:

Calculus 1-3

48,876

General Chemistry 1-3

38,131

Physics 1-3

37,854

Freshman Composition 1-2

31,583

Biology 1-3

29,084

Macro and Micro Economics

20,651

Introductory Psychology

17,091

Statistics

15,447

Organic Chemistry 1-2

13,472

Spanish 1-4

12,268

World History 1-3 and Survey

9,503

Cultural Anthropology

9,224

Introductory Sociology

8,556

Multivariate Calculus I

8,136

Western Civilization 1-3

7,776

Nutrition

7,433

Writing

6,698

U.S. History 1-3

6,129

Precalculus

5,541

American Government & Politics

5,321

Accounting I

4,994

Introductory Astronomy

4,603

Linear Algebra

4,316

Differential Equations

3,788

International Relations

3,762

Long-term: Supporters hope to use the pilot program to persuade faculty members to back a far-reaching expansion of online instruction that would offer associate degrees entirely online, and, ultimately, bachelor's degrees.