Offering a wide variety of classes without the classroom, the new electronic education program now caters to students within the UCs.
On Oct. 31, Interim Director Keith Williams presented an electronic tour of the new UC Online Program in a press teleconference.
In his demonstration, Williams showed off one course that taught dance styles across time and culture. Integrated with this particular online course were videos showing demonstrations of the hula, ballet and a variety of other dance styles to be studied. One peculiar requirement of the demo class was an assignment that required students to go and dance somewhere in public, and then write about their experience with the class’s response system.
The UC Online program now offers a selection of electronic courses for students, allowing an educational experience without the classroom, while operating under the academic umbrella of the University of California.
“It started about two years ago when we started looking for faculty that might be interested in doing online courses that can be offered over a system-wide process,” Williams said.
The program, which currently has $4.6 million dollars invested in it from the UC Office of the President, received over 80 letters from interested individuals within the UCs, of which 30 were chosen to become operational as online courses. As of now, 25 of those courses are finalized, with more on the way.
Class experiences also vary, said Williams, depending on the professor running certain courses. One professor was shown holding his class through a green-screen improvised studio built in his garage, while another professor held the class both online and within the classroom, with the webcam videos going online for the students who are taking his class through the UC Online program.
Currently at UC Irvine, UC Online offers Preparatory Calculus A and B as well as Physics and General Chemistry Prep, all of which were offered over the summer and fall sessions. Most of the classes are priced in a similar fashion to typical UC classes, with the price range falling in between $1500 to $2000 for a four to five unit course. Financial aid for these classes is offered through the campus, the same as typical quarterly classes at UC campuses.
Plans for the future include introducing some form of cross-campus system, wherein students from one UC campus could take courses offered by other UC campuses online. Such systems, however, are currently facing certain difficulties. As financial costs across UC campuses are charged differently, financial aid, transferring information and application of courses to specific majors across UC campuses can still prove problematic. Also, limited bandwidth still prevents a large numbers of students from interacting at once without lagging or interfering with the system — limitations that might be fixed in the future.
The program also hopes to expand and offer classes to non-UC students, allowing for a more extensive student pool of users.
“We’re able to allow students to enroll across campuses, then we’ll open up the variety of courses that might be available to a given major or to a given area,” said Williams. “I think everybody knows the budget difficulties that are facing California and the UCs, and this is a way to expand the availability of some of the courses by allowing some things to be taken that might be offered on another campus.”