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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More from UC Law Dean

Chronicle of Higher Education has an interview here with UC Berkeley Law School dean on the importance of online education. I don't doubt Dean Edley's sincerity in desiring that a UC education be afforded to as many students as possible, but there simply isn't any meaningful discussion about how, exactly, UC would not simply be replicating a University of Phoenix experience for the part-time and underprivileged students to whom it would be charging the full UC tuition. Some acknowledgment of the importance of dialogue and in-class discussion would also be nice.


Gerry Barnett said...

This went around about at UCSC a few years ago, where the claim was, on-line was cheaper and "didn't do any worse" than conventional classroom work. I thought this was a such a losing argument--that the conventional classroom had degraded so much that one could offer up a technology-heavy, change-difficult on-line substitute to say, now that we've destroyed the classroom to this level, on-line starts to look like the new best way to preserve that diminished state of interaction while sucking even more cost out of the whole affair.

There is a version of innovation that establishes a quality level and then moves to remove as much as possible by way of costs without exposing a loss in quality. At best it's value engineering--be smart about ops to accomplish the same thing with less wasted effort. At worst, it's a way to defraud by appearances. Add in some melamine.

Chris Newfield said...

The crucial passage from the CHE interview: "My own hope is that various campuses in our 10-campus system will develop lower-division online programs using their own faculty or borrowing from other campuses. Then the upper-division work, where students have to declare a major and expect more-specific offerings, would be carried out at the level of the UC system, drawing on faculty resources from all 10 campuses. So in the lower division, students would get totally transferable equivalent credits at say, Berkeley or Santa Barbara, but then the upper-division work would lead to a B.A. from the UC cybercampus." Both lower and upper division are cyber?

I'm in favor of distance learning as a supplement to the interactive processes that Gerry describes above, and that are the staple of active learning and rapid intellectual response training for elites in places like Berkeley Law, Haas business school, etc. I'm not in favor of the logic that says 1) there will never again be enough money to combine high quality with mass access; 2) that's ok because we can give the masses computer-learning; 3) (unstated) more of the remaining general fund money, allocated to undergraduates, can be pulled out of undergrad education and given to high-tuition, highly selective professional schools like Edley's own.

The plan would have more credibility coming from Edley were he to a) try it out on his own law school first; b) have expertise in distance learning that would make this more than a retread of the 1990s vision of privately-capitalized online schools that didn't work; c) not have been declaring proper levels of public funding dead since the day he arrived in California (e.g. http://toodumbtolivearchive.blogspot.com/2009/07/chris-edley-op-ed-on-uc-future-january.html); d) not use the alleged end of the strong public funding era as a device to raise private funds for Berkeley law (http://toodumbtolivearchive.blogspot.com/2009/07/chris-edley-interview-new-york-times.html); e) not have a vested financial interest (for his school) in further cheapening general undergraduate education and thereby protecting state revenues for UC professional schools.

The decline in public funding rests on the fact that the public doesn't really know that it's hurting public higher education. It would be nice if someone in Edley's position would say that the cuts are bad for education, rather than endlessly adapting OTHER PEOPLE to them (on the campuses, not at the professional schools) and thereby egging them on.

black magic woman said...

Your comments are completely on point. I totally agree with you Chris.

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