Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Doing Online Right

Several of my recent posts have dealt with the negative aspects of the UC move to place courses online, but I want to clarify that many faculty members are currently using digital technologies in an effective manner. For example, many uc teachers are having their students produce web sites and analyze a wide range of web-based contents. There is also a growing use of digital courseware and class management systems, and many faculty employ online class discussions. Moreover, we are witnessing efforts to use digital and multimedia textbooks as we teach our students how to access and assess digital media. Finally, we already have thousands of classes that are either totally or partially online.

One reason the Regents may not know about the high level of digital activity in the UC system is because the Regents are not educators, and they have little knowledge of what really goes on in university classrooms. Unfortunately, the latest Regents meeting revealed that many of the UC administrators also do not know about the use of digital technologies in the UC system: we have online extension programs, we have networked classrooms, we have digital labs, and we have digital libraries – in fact, we may be one of the world leaders in high-tech education, but what we do not have is a replication of the University of Phoenix.

If you listen to the end of the discussion about online learning from the last Regents meeting, you will hear the exasperated Berkeley Chancellor Birgenou exclaim, “I have no idea what you people are talking about.” From my perspective, this was the new former Chancellor’s best moment. Yes, the Regents actually have no idea what is going on in the very institution they are supposed to be directing.


  1. My sentiments exactly: we UC faculty use a wide range of "on-line" (digital) tools in our teaching already, to enhance learning, with excellent results. However, we tend to pay little attention to the economic costs or benefits of those tools, which are apparently the main thing motivating our administrators.
    Is there a way to access a recording or transcript of the Regents' meeting?

  2. Does anyone above the level of Dept. Chair know about how teaching is really conducted? Not at my UC campus, that is for sure.

  3. Or, the UC Regents with the greatest power are indeed aware of what goes on at UC and are also aware of their own interests in online instruction (some of them have their own online instruction ventures).

    Many regents voted for Dirks and have not even met Dirks yet in person(according to Lansing's comments). That's how much care they took in placing a new chancellor at what they call 'the number one public university in the world' (that is not a slam -at all- on Dirks, btw.)

    HMarcuse, are you being facetious (hunch) or is this truly your first moment of realization that the UC Regents meeting audio is not (and never has been) immediately archived or available? It has to be requested via a public records act request and then loaded by someone willing to do it.
    Do you also see the irony in this as we talk about a regent push for online instruction (with low cost instructors)?

    1. You can access this regents audio at:

  4. Bob: I agree with this. Classes at UCLA are already very hybrid. We could do more, but UCOE seems to have always been about generating greater revenue. There is an article in the Chronicle reporting that Coursera and Udacity are selling student data to employment agencies. That's their "value proposition." This would be a highly problematic strategy for a public university, to say the least.

    I would like to see UC-AFT and CUCFA taking a more proactive stance on this topic. I think we could articulate a more attractive vision on digital technology, and I'm sure there must be faculty and staff in the UC who are deeply knowledgeable on these issues.

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