Monday, December 10, 2012

The Seductive Mechanical Reproduction of the University

UC has released a new advertisement for new online program, and it is quite revealing. In fact, if you Google UC Online, you will most likely see the ad appear at the top of the page (I wonder how much this cost the UC). The sales pitch begins with the following: “Sign up today to learn more about the new, exciting, and fully online experience now being offered by University of California. Taught by the same instructors that have provided a top-tier education to some of the world’s best and brightest, these online courses immerse you in the world of high academic standards that, previously, could only be found on a UC campus.” Yes, it is new and exciting and just like the real UC experience. However, it is unclear still who will teach the courses or what academic standards will be applied.

The ad continues by putting down the real UC education: “Because our courses are online, they offer a level of flexibility that doesn’t exist in a more traditional college setting. Where and when you learn is up to you. What you learn makes this opportunity unique.” In other words, unlike those traditional universities (like the University of California), education in the online courses will be flexible, personalized, and unique.

The ad next shifts to a more threatening and dubious claim: “Many of our courses are great for fulfilling prerequisite or transfer credit requirements, such as the following; “Pre-Calculus 1A, Pre-Calculus 1B, General Psychology, General Chemistry, Introduction to Writing & Rhetoric,Intro to Probability & Statistics for Business.” So for people who are not yet matriculated into the UC system, they can start to earn credits and fulfill perquisites. This sounds like a good deal, but is it really? (On a separate page, you find the following disclaimer: “Please note that registering for any of the UC Online classes does not admit you to a University of California campus. Also, participating in this educational program does not in itself provide preference in admission to the University of California.”)

If you click on the Pricing link, you discover that the courses come at a steep price: Intro to Fresh Water: Processes and Policies $1,750 Pre-Calculus 1A $1,400 Pre-Calculus 1B $1,400 Beauty & Joy of Computing $2,100 Principles of Internet Citizenship $2,100 Intro to Writing & Rhetoric $1,400 General Psychology $1,575 General Chemistry $1,575 Intro to Probability & Stats for Business $2,100 Global Climate Change $1,050. The cost for 10 courses would be $15,050, and I do not see any mention of financial aid here.

So the way the university is going to expand access is to charge students more to get less and offer them less support for the hope that they can maybe use the credits in the future. This ad for a pricey possible education also contains a picture of an attractive blond female student wearing glasses as she holds her laptop near a fuzzy whiteboard. Welcome to the brave new world of the UC commercial!

26 comments:

  1. I wonder how the online General Chemistry lab is handled.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very interesting--I didn't know that "we" had so many courses already being offered online.

    The cost of the google banner ad is not that much--those cost mainly or exclusively depending on the number of times people click on them. They come up when searchers use the "adwords" UC has registered for, and UC pays when someone clicks on their ad. You can set how much google gets per click, and cap the total amount (then your ad no longer appears after those terms are used).

    What I wonder even more is who produced the ad and for how much--some slick ad agency and web designer, and who wrote the copy??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been told that so far they have spent about $4 million on marketing. So like the online universities, marketing and administration often take up a large part of the cost, and this is one reason why they often charge so much and have no tenured faculty.

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