While California is slowly working its way past some of its problems, the space issue in its universities persists. Some of its legislators are looking at online education as a way to alleviate the bottlenecks in lower-level courses that make end up lengthening time to degree.
The advent of massively open online courses, or MOOCs, has California legislators smelling technological fix. A bill was recently introduced by the President of the California Senate that would permit MOOCs to be used by students currently wait-listed at California universities to fulfill general education requirements. The New America Foundation has some details. It’s part of a number of bills that would try to alleviate budgetary and space limitations in state schools by encouraging and/or mandating online education. Put another way, the state would be accrediting courses from other providers based on the sheer need to educate its citizens and its inability (through demand, budget cuts, or both).
Faculty that have been subject to furloughs and other stresses associated with the budget cuts are probably not happy that the state is essentially going cheaper rather than trying to invest in infrastructure – online or offline – within the state institutions. They may also be displeased by what could well be a very large experiment done with little or no thought to effective assessment and evaluation of education and outcomes related to these courses.