Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Virtual Courses Challenge Beliefs about What a University Is...

During last night's VoiceThread discussion on the video Learning to Change, Changing to Learn, a classmate shared that it was difficult to implement web 2.0 technologies in K-12 settings and mentioned the fact that higher education also hasn't changed as quickly one would expect. That observation was underscored for me this morning when the printed version of The Cronicle of Higher Education was delivered to my desk.

The lead story of the issue:
"U. of California Considers Online Classes, or Even Degrees
Proposal for virtual courses challenges beliefs about what an elite university is—and isn't"

The article details the ambitious and controversial efforts underway to pilot a project that will offer select undergraduate courses online. University faculty and staff are engaged in serious debate and discussion as to the effectivenes of this style of education and what it means for the identity of the University. Some fear that the effort may fail due to bureaucracy and the belief that the "status quo" is working and shouldn't change.

I have to wonder if the best approach for higher education is to offer variety, selecting the style that best fits the need. Not simply choosing one method over another, but a deliberate selection of an appropriate approach based on subject matter and requirements.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of this program! Can a university successfully change when that change is delivered in small doses...is a pilot approach a good way for an institution to "get its feet wet"? Will the project ultimately succeed? Will the identity of the University change? What will be the direct impact on faculty and students? What will the impact be on the budget?


  1. Marty--I have thought about this same dilemma. We at the high schools MUST prepare our students to be successful in college, and the university system hasn't changed much, either. Lecture--test---lecture--test. What is student-centered about that? So if we don't build attention spans and note-taking skills in high schools, where will our kids get it?? Just a thought.

  2. I understand what you say, CathyO. It is true that you have to prepare your students for multiple learning environments but you run into the chicken/egg quandary. Does the change from the top down or the bottom up?

    We need to have an end in mind and make modifications to how we learn/teach to achieve that end.


  3. "The university plans to spend about $250,000 on each course" --- wow, no wonder California is broke!