President Yudof outlined his big online vision near the start of the Regents Meeting on Wednesday. He argued that since so many students are applying to the UC system, but there is not enough money or classes to enroll them, the system should consider moving many of its high-enrollment gateway courses online. Yudof added that the university is going to have to get used to a higher student-to-faculty ratio for the foreseeable future, and that we must move to a system where students don’t simply memorize information, but rather they engage in a critical relationship with new knowledge.
Yudof stressed that the focus of the Online Pilot Program has never been on enrolling non-UC students, and the media has gotten it wrong on the failure of the UC program to attract students. However, Yudof’s remarks directly contradict UC’s own previous statements regarding the need to attract 3,000 non-UC students this year to pay off the loan it made to itself.
There was a lot of rewriting of history going on throughout the meeting, and it was unfortunate that no one at the table corrected some of these misrepresentations. Also, when the outside course providers were making their presentations, they constantly bashed UC faculty by arguing that nothing has changed in our classrooms during the last fifty years, and the professors need to either rethink how they teach or get out of the way. Once again, no one defended the faculty or the quality of education in the UC system.
Yudof announced that there will be a Spring meeting with faculty to discuss the online programs, and a new set of incentives will be established to get more professors to develop more nontraditional classes. The UC Provost added that one possible goal would be for every student to take at least four online courses during their first two years, but Yudof later angrily insisted that no students would be forced to take online courses.
Governor Brown reiterated his point that the university has to realize that it wants more money from the state than the state can deliver, so the UC system has to find a way to teach more students with less money. He later added that it sounded like the system was headed in the right direction, and he appeared to be pleased with the tenor of the conversation.
At one strange moment, Regent Blum insisted that Dean Edley speak about the online program, and Edley obliged by taking off on a long riff dealing with the need to set up a virtual campus for all of the qualified, under-represented students who can’t find a spot in the UC system. Like so much that was said during the day, Edley’s rhetoric sounded good until you questioned the main theme of the day, which was how can the UC system turn to online education to both save money and improve educational quality.
I tried to address these issues during my public comments, but I felt as though no one was really paying attention. During a break, a TV reporter pulled me aside and asked me to talk about why I hate online education. I said I do not hate it, but I believe that it will increase costs and possibly lower the quality of our “better classes.” I also added that this whole discussion about online education allows the UC to avoid talking about the real cost drivers in the system.
It should be clear from my report that the senate faculty have to get more involved and more vocal about defending their own positions and institution. One place for an intervention would be the Spring summit on online education that Yudof mentioned.