A California Senate legislator has proposed a bill that would allow more online classes for students in public higher education schools, but he is getting no support from the California State University faculty union.
Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has proposed a new Senate bill which would create a list of the 50 most oversubscribed lower division courses in the CSU, University of California and California Community College systems which are needed for program completion, transfer requirements or general education requirements and allow them to be taught online.
“The California Master Plan for Higher Education promised open access to all, yet thousands of students are struggling to complete their degrees and going deeper in college debt because there simply aren’t enough classroom seats available in the courses they need,” Steinberg said.
SB 520, co-authored by former college faculty member and Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), states that the online courses would only be available to students who are unable to enroll in the impacted classes.
The California Faculty Association, the union which represents all CSU faculty members, has expressed concerns regarding bills endorsing online education and has issued a statement outlining those concerns.
“While CFA believes that online education can be a successful mode of instruction for some students, and while we wholeheartedly support the goal of expanding access to higher education in California, we have deep concerns about some proposed legislative solutions that mandate online instruction or call for blanket standardization of curriculum across a variety of institutions,” the CFA said in a statement.
Junior sociology major Ryan Kendrick, 22, said that he is not completely in support of the bill either.
“You don’t have to come to class, but it’s hard to learn (online) because you have to teach yourself. It makes it harder,” Kendrick said.
The statement also said that after years of cuts to the CSU system the funding from Proposition 30 should go directly to the CSU and the “core mission of education” instead of to private vendors.
Nate Thomas, CSUN’s CFA chapter president, said that the CFA wants to ensure that students get the same quality of teaching online as they do in a classroom.
“There are pre-fabricated courses from private owners that are not very academic or have the same rigor, like DeVry. The faculty needs to be involved in which courses are appropriate or not. Quality courses are not cake courses, they are taught by faculty who are experts,” Thomas said.
SB 520 states that a review of the online courses would be done by a nine-member college faculty council comprised of three members from the Academic Senates of the CSU, UC and CCC systems.
The council will review the course by considering how or if a student can interact with their instructor, if the course has a proctored exam to ensure academic integrity and if the course has content recommended by the American Council on Education.
Freshman communication disorders major Heidi Vacaflor, 19, said that she doesn’t usually like online classes and prefers the interaction with her professor.
“Both sides have a really good point. Classes are crowded, especially at CSUs,” Vacaflor said. “We need those classes.”
The CFA statement said that research has shown that online instruction is not ideal for every student and doesn’t offer them the greatest chance of success.
“One size does not fit all,” Thomas said. “Nothing can replace one-on-one interaction with a professor and a student.”