Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The California legislature may endorse credit for MOOCs.

Governor Brown is following in his father's footsteps.

Governor Pat Brown is remembered for developing the California master plan for higher education in 1960. His son, Jerry Brown, the current Governor of California, may be remembered (for better or worse) as an Internet-era reformer of higher education.

Last fall, Governor Brown signed a bill designed to generate open text books, in order to alleviate the rapid rise of textbook prices compared with consumer prices, shown below. (Click images to enlarge).

This spring, San Jose State University is running a trial offering of credit for massive online courses from Udacity, a private company. The hope is that this will reverse the rising cost of tuition and fees.

Now the California legislature is considering a bill requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to give credit for faculty-approved online courses taken by students unable to register for oversubscribed classes on campus.

For a glimpse of the thinking behind these measures, this is what the Governor had to say higher education in his January State of the State speech:

With respect to higher education, cost pressures are relentless and many students cannot get the classes they need. A half million fewer students this year enrolled in the community colleges than in 2008. Graduation in four years is the exception and transition from one segment to the other is difficult. The University of California, the Cal State system and the community colleges are all working on this. The key here is thoughtful change, working with the faculty and the college presidents. But tuition increases are not the answer. I will not let the students become the default financiers of our colleges and universities.
And, it's not just California. In the supplemental notes to President Obama's State of the Union speech, under the heading "Holding colleges accountable for cost, value and quality," we read a call for revision of the federal student aid system, allowing for new measures of value and new system of accreditation:
The president will call on Congress to consider value, affordability, and student outcomes in making determinations about which colleges and universities receive access to federal student aid, either by incorporating measures of value and affordability into the existing accreditation system; or by establishing a new, alternative system of accreditation that would provide pathways for higher-education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results.
If you want to dig deeper, you can see the text of the ambitious bill introduced February 21 and some March 8 amendments.

Tuition and fees
Textbook prices

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Update 4/6/2013

The California State Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 520, authorizing the granting of credit for courses taken online. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

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Update 8/2/2013

California puts SB 520 on ice. State Senator Darrell Steinberg, who introduced the bill, has put it on hold in the face of faculty opposition and to take time to evaluate new online programs proposed by the University of California, California State University and California Community College system. For example, the California State University will offer 35 online courses statewide.