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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

We Get Letters: On Dean Edley's Distance Learning Proposal

The problem with this, as I see it, is not inherently the pedagogical pros and cons of on-line learning, nor even a particular dispute with Dean Edley's assertion that this will open UC to a larger proportion of the mythical 12.5% of California high-school graduates.

Rather, I am concerned that this is being hawked as a way to "solve the problems at U of California". Our problems are manifold, but essentially revolve around a lack of sufficient resources (money) to (a) pay salaries, (b) repair/renovate buildings on the scale we feel is appropriate. The suggestion here is that the teaching of these eStudents would be done by faculty & graduate students at our current campuses. Unless we significantly change the faculty teaching load, this would imply more faculty (and more buildings for them). The most obvious saving to the University is that it would not need to schedule classrooms and could expand the enrolled student population without building new classrooms. There would be a more limited need for student services presumably.

Without (a) a clear business plan, and (b) support from the state at its current "marginal cost of instruction" for UC-eligible California students, I cannot even see this breaking even let alone providing the University with an additional revenue stream. As in every recent (and recurring) fiscal crisis the State has not supported University expansion, I am curious how this might work.

Andrew G. Dickson
Professor-in-Residence of Marine Chemistry
UC San Diego

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