UC Regents Encourage Online Education Progress


Photo by Matt Mersel

The University of California Board of Regents assured attendants that quality would not be sacrificed for cost savings in regard to online courses during their meeting at UC San Francisco on July 18.

Provost and Executive Vice President Aimee Dorr presented her update on the UC’s online education efforts to the Regents. Dorr explained how the Committee on Educational Policy intends to use the $10 million reserved in the budget specifically for online education.

Dorr plans to use a portion of the funding to begin the Innovative Learning Technologies Initiative (ILTI). According to her report, this initiative would “provide funds for development and enhancement of online courses and online components for hybrid courses,” as well as “flipped courses” where the lecture content is received online and professors cover homework and problem sets in class.

The online education debate quickly moved beyond the report as Regents expressed their worries and support. Regent Sherry Lansing expressed her worries in regard to degree programs that are entirely online.

“So we actually have five [programs] where you could never be there personally and actually get a degree?” said Lansing.

Though entirely online degrees are currently limited to graduate classes, UC President Mark Yudof said he believes the UC is at the turning point when online education will become an influential portion of a UC education.

“I think we’re reaching the liftoff point,” said Yudof.

He also reminded the Regents and Committee on Educational Policy that online education is supposed to be an aid to students struggling to attend necessary classes.

“The issue is, are we helping the students get through?” said Yudof.  “Are these high quality courses?”

UC Regent Frederick Ruiz shared his concern regarding online education quality.

“I’d like for us to be thinking about a long term approach,” said Ruiz. “I’d like to be thinking about the students we’ll be servicing, not the number of courses.”

The Committee on Educational Policy said they believe they are addressing student and Regent concerns. UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake said he was pleased with the progress they achieved on the matter.

UC Student Regent Cinthia Flores inquired about student involvement in the process, including an ILTI meeting to be held in the upcoming months. During this meeting, faculty from across the UC campuses will present their online education proposals and formats. Thereafter, the Committee will decide which they believe to be the most promising and move forward to find funding and support for those selected.

Dorr assured Flores that students would have a voice in the process.

“Students will be involved in reviewing all the proposed courses and recommending choices,” said Dorr.

As online education continues to be a key talking point at UC Regents meeting and at universities across the state and world, one selling point is the ability of UC students to enroll in online courses that are not necessarily provided by their own university. Regent Bonnie Reiss expressed her excitement for the UC system moving forward on this issue.

“We want our university to lead this effort,” said Reiss. “It’s not just a professor at one university offering it to students at their own university but it’s the power of 10 being able to explore that opportunity as well.”

Others, including Lansing, said they were optimistic but that online education is still in its infancy.

“Where we’re going is a pilot program,” said Lansing. “We don’t know if this is going to work. We have a completely open mind.”

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom encouraged speed on this issue.

“I just don’t think we’re running at full speed,” said Newsom. “I honestly wouldn’t run my small businesses like this…We need to be deliberate. We need to be thoughtful.”

The Committee on Educational Policy will likely return during the November meeting to give another update on the progress of ILTI and online education as a whole.