November 1, 2010
According to a report from the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) at the University of California Berkeley, drastic reforms must be done within California's higher education system in order to meet President Obama's goal of the U.S. having the highest graduation rate by 2020. Meanwhile, a different report from the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) stated that changes in distance learning could improve access to higher education and, thus, improve graduation rates.
While distance education is not suitable for everyone, the LAO stated that it does offer an important alternative for many and can provide greater options for students. Yet, the University of California (UC) system makes limited use of distance education. Furthermore, although both the California Community Colleges (CCC) and the California State University (CSU) provide a considerable amount of distance learning education, the LAO argued that California needs to implement standards that would allow students and faculty to take full advantage of online education.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Daniel Greenstein, vice provost for academic planning and programs at UC's Office of the President, is an advocate of distance education, saying that the flexibility could help community college students develop their critical thinking skills to a level required at public universities. He also added that distance learning gives students the ability to customize their education in a way that traditional lecture hall settings cannot.
Other benefits of distance education were cited in the report. For example, the LAO noted that online education makes coursework more accessible to students with personal and professional obligations. It could also help students graduate faster as it would give them the option to find and earn credits for classes at more than one campus. Distance education could also increase collaboration between campuses. Lastly, schools would be able to accommodate increased enrollment and instruction without the expense of building new classrooms and facilities.
In order to take full advantage of distance learning, the report makes a number of recommendations, including adopting a common standard of distance education for California's three higher education segments and establishing statewide grants to create a repository of online curricula that faculty throughout the state could access.
"Education is an evolving form," said Greenstein to The Chronicle of Higher Education. "Online is just the next thing, like how large lecture halls were invented in the 50s to accommodate for growing college enrollments."
Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
"Re-Imagining California Higher Education," cshe.berkeley.edu, October 2010, John Aubrey Douglass
"Report Calls for Distance Learning to Improve College Access and Efficiency in California," chronicle.com, October 29, 2010, Paige Chapman
"The Master Plan at 50: Using Distance Education to Increase College Access and Efficiency," lao.ca.gov, October 25, 2010, Mac Taylor