Taylor, M. (2010) Using Distance Education to Increase College Access and Efficiency Sacramento CA: Legislative Analyst Office, State of California

The Contra Costa Times is not normally on my reading list, but thanks to the Web (and Academic Impressions) I came across this report, about a recommendation for more online courses and more collaboration in online learning between Californian colleges and universities. Specifically, the report makes the following recommendations:

  • Adopting a standard definition of distance education for UC, CSU, and CCC, and requiring the segments to report periodically on student enrollment and performance in distance-education coursework.
  • Establishing competitive statewide grants to develop a repository of online curricula that would be made available to faculty throughout the state.
  • Requiring that reviews of proposals for new academic programs evaluate whether shared distance-education programs would be a better alternative.
  • Directing the Chancellor’s Offices of CSU and CCC to study the feasibility of developing online degree-completion programs for persons who started college but never obtained a degree.
  • Creating a task force to pursue a public-private partnership with Western Governors University, a Utah-based nonprofit online university of which California is already a member.

I’m struggling to see how this adds anything to what is already happening in California, although I suppose a weak recommendation supporting distance education from the state legislature is better than nothing. It also suggests that California is way behind many other jurisdictions in North America regarding an organized distance education system, as distinct from a bunch of odd courses from many different institutions.

I am reminded that what goes around, comes around. The California Virtual Campus already provides a comprehensive list of online courses, so the second recommendation makes no sense to me.

There are plenty of models for California to follow, such as the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus in the USA. North of the border there’s BC Campus, e-Campus Alberta, and Contact North and elearnnetwork.ca in Ontario.

The big challenge of course is credit transfer: will one college accept credits from another college for transfer into its own program? Are there articulation agreements between the community colleges and universities? Is the transfer of credit automatic or does the student need to apply individually each time? Is someone/some body ensuring coherence in the construction of a qualification from multiple sources? That’s the difference between a consortium and a web portal. There wasn’t any discussion of this in the report, which focuses on what institutions should do, not what students need, which is not the same thing at all.

For analysis of this report, see:

Krupnick, M. (2010) Legislative analyst: Beef up online college courses Contra Costa Times, October 25

Kolowich, S. (2010) Digital Solution for Sacramento, Inside Higher Education, October 26


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