UC System Seeks Faculty for Online Course Project

On Nov. 2, the UC system announced its search for interested faculty members to take part in a two-year experiment to determine if online instruction can be offered at a UC-quality level.

“This study of undergraduate online instruction comes at a time when the university, hemmed in by budget reductions, is faced with rising enrollment pressures and limited capital funds for facility expansion,” a University of California Office of the President statement said.

The examination is part of the Online Learning Pilot Project — a project exploring whether online classes can deliver high-level instruction — introduced in July by the UC Commission on the Future.

“[The UC Commission on the Future] has explored ways the university can best serve California while at the same time maintaining access, quality and affordability in an era of reduced resources,” the statement said.

In the pilot project, 25 courses will be taught, at most. UCOP is raising external funds to support the program which will require a professor, course designer and education technologist to develop courses.

The online courses will have the same academic standards, UC faculty members and graduate student instructors as physical classes, according to UCOP senior policy adviser Christopher Edley at a Regents meeting in July. The formula will be multi-media and web-based, using video, audio-over slides, animations, white boards and social networking websites.

Discussions will include online chat rooms, discussion boards, desktop webinars and video conferences. Students will be tested in the same manner — with midterms, papers and finals — in a secure online environment with proctors and software.

The first test courses are scheduled to begin by January 2012. All courses will be taught at least once before the project ends in December 2012.

The pilot project courses emphasize classes that are experiencing the heaviest demand systemwide. They will be subject to the standard Academic Senate approval process by an advisory panel of UC administrators and Academic Senate members.

Currently, about 1,200 online courses are available through UC Extension programs. A total of 55,229 students are enrolled in these online courses.

In the faculty search, members from the 10 campuses are invited to submit letters of intent by Dec. 13 detailing which course they want to develop and teach. An interdisciplinary committee will review faculty letters of intent and make recommendations to UCOP about which proposals to plan and implement.

During the planning phase, the faculty chosen to participate will provide input on the online learning environment, course structure and evaluation process.

“The challenge for these participants will include trying to identify what are key ingredients of ‘UC quality’ and what measurements should be used to gauge how much students learn in a course,” the statement said.

At the end of the planning phase, requests for full proposals will be issued in March 2011 and the submission deadline will be April 2011. The committee will begin the implementation phase, where faculty and project staff will develop, start and evaluate the online courses.

Readers can contact Regina Ip at [email protected]. 

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