Cotterell, S. (2013) UC Online aims to increase number of courses offered online The California Aggie, January 22

Powell, S. (2013) CSU rolls out expansion of online courses Daily Sundial, January 30


California has at least three public post-secondary eduxation systems:

  • the University of California (e.g. Berkeley, UCLA, Davis)
  • California State University (also with multiple campuses)
  • California community colleges.

In addition, it has several prestigious private ivy league universities, such as Stanford and the University of Southern California.

The state-funded public systems are in dire financial trouble because of years of cuts (for more information, see Online Learning in California Generates Controversy)

These three articles indicate how the state and its public institutions are looking to online learning to ease some of the problems they are facing as a result of past cuts.

Money earmarked for online learning

Following recent elections, which included a referendum allowing the governor to raise taxes after years of no tax increases, the state governor has allocated $10 million for online course development, across the whole system. (This may seem a lot, but it is still relatively small given the size of the system).

Both the University of California system, and the California State University system, have set up or are setting up their own, system wide online initiatives. These initiatives are in addition to any online courses being offered by individual campuses (for instance, San Jose State University has many hundreds of credit online courses already).

Currently, there are four campuses participating in Cal State Online. San Jose State is also offering MOOCs through Udacity.

Similarly, in the University of California system, UC campuses individually offered over 2,500 online courses, with more than 90,000 enrolled students, in 2011-2012. Nevertheless it is starting up a new  University of California Online Education system. Courses offered through UCOE will be free to students enrolled in the University of California but wil charge a fee for those outside the system. One reason for setting up this system-wide online initiative is because currently, there is no easy way for cross-campus enrollment between the different online courses, but UCOE is developing a system that would provide students with this option.


As an outsider, it’s hard to get all the details (indeed, even insiders such as faculty in these systems are complaining about lack of details). What seems to be lacking though is a plan or a rationale for these new system-wide initiatives, which seem to duplicate already existing initiatives within the individual campuses.

The problem seems to be the difficulty for students in mixing and matching courses from different campuses within the same system. But this requires a relatively simple administrative fix (i.e. system-wide policies), and some tweaking of the student information systems, rather than constructing new systems with their own administration, overheads and new investment in course development and delivery.

I suspect that the California higher education system now has become so large and bureaucratic that it cannot handle innovation easily within the existing institutions, so is striving to get round this by creating new, equally large and bureaucratic systems. What I can’t see is how these initiatives are going to make much of a difference to student access or the lack of funding for conventional programs.



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