The CSU and its Technology Steering Committee are looking for vendors to provide infrastructure for the proposed Cal State Online program, issuing an invitation for vendors to offer their services, at Planetbid.com on April 2.
Cal State Online is an initiative that was started in 2011 by the committee to create a system-wide online education program for the CSU. The invitation kicked off the bidding among firms that currently provide “comprehensive online course and program delivery services,” according to the project outline in the request for proposal.
“Any time the CSU looks to implement a systemwide initiative there are challenges,” said Michael Uhlenkamp, the CSU’s director of media relations and new media, in an email interview. “Funding is one challenge and there are several logistical challenges as well.”
CSU is currently working with stakeholders to meet these challenges, Uhlenkamp said. The program is projected to launch in the spring of 2013, according to the timeline published on the website.
However, some question the validity of a degree earned through the Internet.
“I think there are massive dangers associated with online education,” said Steven Graves, professor of geology at CSUN. “Administrators love the idea because it saves money. Quality assessments of learning outcomes are not done often. So, there are few assurances that online education is equal to on-campus education.”
Graves believes that online education eliminates human interaction — a vital part of education.
“Cal State Online would serve to supplement the overall mission of the CSU,” Uhlenkamp said. “As such, there would be no threat to the traditional experience at a CSU campus.”
Part of the program’s mission is to bring higher education to students who don’t have access to a campus, or who are otherwise restricted.
“Some of California’s residents are place-bound and unable to attend a campus,” Uhlenkamp said. “Other potential students are working full-time and are not able to participate in coursework in a traditional classroom setting.”
One of the goals of the program is to help CSU campuses provide fully-online education programs, by offering a system that can market, service, and expand the CSU e-learning programs, according to the Cal State Online website.
While he recognizes the value of emerging media and uses online elements in his own classes, Graves said that e-learning is not effective for course work that requires “higher order thinking and problem-solving skills.”
“Would you go to a surgeon who had an online medical degree? I wouldn’t,” Graves said.
The next step for Cal State Online is a review process of request for proposal. This gives stakeholders the opportunity to give feedback, as the CSU searches for a vendor who can provide the services that Cal State Online will need.
A campus liaison to Cal State Online has been appointed to each campus to assist with communications between the CSU and each individual school during the development process.
The next Cal State Online board meeting is scheduled for April 18.