Academic Senate Opposes CSU Online Initiative

Faculty expressed concern as to how an online
university might affect course work and curriculum.

The California State University (CSU) system is in the early stages of building an online university in an effort to address California’s growing demand for affordable higher education.

The Technology Steering Committee (TSC), which is in charge of the initiative, hopes the online university can provide access to those seeking affordable bachelor and graduate programs and who are unable to attend a physical university due to economic issues or physical obstacles.

Twelve different visions for the online system were highlighted in a report released in July 2011 with the overall goal to “promote access, reduce time to [attaining a] degree, increase student retention, increase student convenience and enhance revenues.”

One vision calls for a “broadly focused program,” which would offer a wide array of options, attracting adults who cannot attend physical campuses such as “military personnel” and “California prison inmates.”

Another vision, based on a similar model at UC Berkeley, would expand the potential capacity for college freshmen by 10 to 15 percent through offering their beginning classes online.

“CSU Quick Start” would offer high school and community college students access to lower division courses, which would count towards their bachelors degree.

Some parties involved expressed their concern about the new direction for the CSU system.

The Academic Senate for CSU, which represents the interests of CSU faculty statewide, adopted a resolution recently calling for the suspension of the online initiative.

“Unfortunately, the current initiative reflects an all too common approach to curricular innovation,” the California Academic Senate stated on its website, “a top down management with little or no meaningful faculty input.”

The Academic Senates from CSU Dominguez Hills, San Bernardino, Stanislaus and Sonoma State have also passed similar resolutions.

CSU East Bay will soon be among them.

In a yet-to-be-adopted resolution released earlier this month, the CSUEB Academic Senate called on the CSU Chancellor to “suspend expenditure of any further University funds on a system-wide online initiative until at least 80 percent of the campus senates approve the basic issues involved.”

“I’m very concerned about CSU Online,” said Academic Senate Chairman Mike Mahoney. “Right now, the faculty are in control of the curriculum. The faculty creates the courses, create the degrees, undergraduate and graduate etc. Because some faculty are concerned that might be taken away from them […] the faculty are concerned about that more than ever.”

The resolution-to-be-adopted points out the faculty are concerned about specifying how quality of courses will be maintained as well as who will develop and control the courses.

The CSU Online initiative is still in the early stages of development as the new Executive Director, Ruth Claire Black, started in mid-December and will work with the various interests involved while overseeing the entire project.

CSU East Bay students commented on the effects of an online university and how the change in curriculum could impact the way they achieve a degree.

Some students said they would welcome an online university specifically for students who learn better online and can use these technologies to their advantage.

“I think that CSU Online would be a great option for many students,” said Elizabeth Ortiz, Student Senator for CSUEB Academic Senate.

This initiative is still a work in progress, representatives expressed, as the future of education in California, whether online or in its traditional sense of the word, remains uncertain.