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UC professors raise doubts about online degree plan


The University of California’s interest in offering an online degree is opening a new chapter in the debate over online education, TMCnet.com reports. Many professors question whether the state’s premier university system should tread so deeply into cyberspace, where other prestigious universities have failed—and where some less selective colleges have thrived. The professors are concerned that a virtual UC will waste limited resources, compromise the university’s academic reputation, and divert it from its primary mission of educating California’s top-performing students. The plan’s creator—Christopher Edley, dean of UC Berkeley’s law school—says the opposite is true. He contends UC can maintain its rigor online and that doing so will allow the university to reach more of those stellar students at a lower cost. “How do we provide access to UC quality when the state is not there for us and the student demand is growing? We need an alternative to the bricks-and-mortar model, and this may be it,” said Edley, who is kicking off the online initiative by raising $6 million from private donors to cover the cost of a pilot project. The money will be used to produce 25 to 40 online courses in subjects such as calculus, chemistry, and freshman composition that typically draw huge enrollments at the lower-division level. Students at any of UC’s 10 campuses will be able to take the online classes, which might be available by spring. For the pilot, they’ll pay the same tuition as they would taking classes in person. Edley envisions steadily expanding UC’s web presence, but his plan has drawn some resistance by faculty members. Even professors who support a greater use of technology say the plan has flaws. Some like the idea of expanding online offerings but don’t think UC should offer an online degree. Others think online curriculum should be developed and controlled by academic departments on each campus, not by UC’s statewide bureaucracy…

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