Davis Faculty Association

Archive for March, 2013

New York Times editorial on the magical thinking around online education

The New York Times editorializes on state budget cuts to California’s public higher education systems and the state legislature’s magical thinking around online education.

The full article is online at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/opinion/sunday/resurrecting-californias-public-universities.html?_r=0

An excerpt follows:

“The same California State Legislature that cut the higher education budget to ribbons, while spending ever larger sums on prisons, now proposes to magically set things right by requiring public colleges and universities to offer more online courses. The problem is that online courses as generally configured are not broadly useful. They work well for highly skilled, highly motivated students but are potentially disastrous for large numbers of struggling students who lack basic competencies and require remedial education. These courses would be a questionable fit for first-time freshmen in the 23-campus California State University system, more than 60 percent of whom need remedial instruction in math, English or both.”

A note about proposed online ed legislation

The DFA, in conjunction with CUCFA staff and the other faculty associations, have been busy monitoring the impending state legislation about online courses. In a previous email, we informed you of our letter of inquiry to the UCD Senate leadership and also invited you to sign an online petition opposing Senate Bill 520, which has so far received the lion’s share of attention. If you haven’t already you can still sign that petition (which currently has almost 1500 signatures) at

http://signon.org/sign/uc-faculty-opposition?source=c.em.cp&r_by=985930

Senate Chair Nachtergaele also wrote to the entire UCD faculty this morning providing further details of the Senate’s position on this issue.

There are also other related bills being considered in the Senate or the Assembly, some of them arguably less bad than SB 520, but all of them giving cause for our concern. Some other bills include:

* Assembly Bill 386 – Allows any student within the CSU System to take an online course on any other CSU campus, with some restrictions.
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_386&sess=CUR

* Assembly Bill 387 Among other things, mandates 10% of new CSU courses be online offerings.
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_387&sess=CUR

* Assembly Bill 1306 – Establishes a New University of California as the fourth higher education segment. The New University will provide no instruction, but shall issue college credit, baccalaureate and associate degrees to any person capable of passing examinations.
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_1306&sess=CUR

* Senate Bill 520 – Directs the three higher education segments to identify the 50 most “bottlenecked” courses, creates a statewide pool of these classes, after a standardized review. Approval process allows private vendors to offer these classes for credit.
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_520&sess=CUR

* Senate Bill 547. Similar to SB 520 but works much more within the current structures. It assigns course development and approval to the Academic Senates of UC, CSU and CCC, working jointly. In contrast, SB 520 assigned it to a 9-member panel which does not yet exist, whose original purpose was to help create free online textbooks.
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_547&sess=CUR

Meanwhile, Bob Meister, Chair of CUCFA, has drafted an op-ed that will hopefully see print soon. Also, the UCSB Faculty Association has developed a set of bullet points, available here. This is obviously a complex issue and some of us following it closely continue to disagree (including about some of the points made in the UCSB document).

We’ll continue to monitor this legislation as it evolves, and would be happy to hear from any DFA members about their opinions on this legislation.

Best wishes,

Scott C. Shershow
Professor of English
Chair, Davis Faculty Association

Add your voice to a call for changes to SB 520

The Davis Faculty Association is gravely concerned about SB 520, a bill currently being considered by the state legislature, which would mandate acceptance of online courses from any source for academic credit at the University of California, the California State University and Community Colleges.  This proposal seems to us to have profound potential implications for shared governance, educational quality, faculty control of curriculum, standards for degrees, and much more. The DFA recently wrote to UCD Senate Chair Bruno Nachtergaele to express its concern about this legislation, and in response were referred to the Open Letter from Bob Powell and Council Chair Bill Jacob, the chairs of the system-wide Senate, which has already been sent to all faculty.

The DFA writes now to invite you to add your name to the petition linked to below, which originated with the Berkeley Faculty Association, and which is addressed to Sen. Darrell Steinberg (CA-6), the sponsor of SB 520, asking him to withdraw or modify SB 520. Please use the petition’s comment field to note your affiliation with UC.

http://signon.org/sign/uc-faculty-opposition?source=s.icn.em.mt&r_by=7376435

For more information on this impending legislation, see the various links at:

http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-academic-senate-and-others-respond.html

Senator Steinberg’s proposed online classes bill

Today’s New York Times (and a number of other news sources) had an article about proposed legislation from Senator Steinberg that would require California’s public higher education systems to accept transfer credits from select online course providers for 50 of the state’s most impacted courses (some of these courses would be Community College or CSU courses but some could be UC courses, they have not been selected yet).

The New York Times article is available online at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/education/california-bill-would-force-colleges-to-honor-online-classes.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

Lillian Taiz, the president of the California Faculty Association (the union representing CSU faculty), is quoted in the article:

“What’s really going on is that after the budget cuts have sucked public higher education dry of resources,” she continued, “the Legislature’s saying we should give away the job of educating our students.”

The language of the proposed bill is not available from the Legislative Counsel’s website yet, but I’ve attached a PDF of the proposed language. Also attached is a PDF press release from Senator Steinberg’s office.

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