Online Cross-Campus Courses Are a Cop-Out

Online Cross-Campus Courses Are a Cop-Out

Last quarter, I took a class at the Rady School of Management that conducted all examinations online. We brought our laptops to class to take an online multiple choice midterm and final through a website. Our professor ensured us that this way, grading would be done easily, and scores would be revealed instantly.
Oh, if only it were that simple.

The class had technical difficulties to get both online exams going, delaying each by at least 30 minutes, on our test days. But this wasn’t the only time misspent; using the website started several debates and discussions regarding the option of being able to look back on and change past responses on the website’s exam.

And I’m not bitter or annoyed just because I got a below average grade on the exam, but because as I sat there waiting — and wishing I was taking a basic Scantron and #2 pencil exam — I became more convinced that not all problems can be solved through technology.

In response to criticisms of its increasingly crowded classrooms and previous lack of online course options, the UC system now offers cross-campus online classes available to any UC student meeting eligibility requirements, starting this quarter. The new $10 million pilot program currently has 11 different classes ranging from computer science to elementary Spanish taught by professors from four different UC campuses. While these web courses may actually be efficient for students (unlike my class’s online exams), opening up virtual seats is not the solution for overcrowding and delayed degree completion at the UC campuses.

Courses on home campuses are too often filled to more than capacity. As more classes and programs become impacted, students are packed into lecture halls like cattle, and it’s not uncommon to see some sitting on the floor due to the lack of seats. Last quarter, Genetics filled both Peterson Hall 108 and 110, where some watched their professor’s live stream from the other classroom. These are valid and real problems that students should not have to deal with, but an online course is not the equivalent of a traditional one with a live, lecturing professor and physical resources available on campus for students to utilize.

For online courses, students are limited to emails to ask questions and cannot participate in lectures or attend office hours. UC administrators shouldn’t use online courses as a cop out for offering more classes on actual campuses. As students, we pay for a quality UC education, and we should be given just that; if we wanted to take online classes instead of on-campus classes, we could enroll in private online institutions for a fraction of the price.

Unlike my online exams, these cross-campus online classes may be somewhat more convenient or flexible for students but they come at the expense of quality. The UC system’s new initiative acts as an experiment, but I won’t be surprised if, like many new technology-based systems, the program creates more problems than it solves.

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