Finalists Picked for Online Courses in Pilot Program

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Correction Appended

Thirty letters of intent were accepted as finalists at the end of January for the University of California Online Instruction Pilot Project to create systemwide online courses, in an effort to begin adding online courses to the UC curriculum by the fall of 2012.

Each of the UC campuses, with the exception of UC San Francisco, are represented in the 30 proposals being considered for implementation by the pilot program. The potential courses - seven of which come from UC Berkeley faculty - range from introductory science and math classes to humanities courses, art and dance.

The 30 UC faculty members whose letters of intent were selected for review will meet for a two-day workshop this weekend in Berkeley to discuss the format of the online courses, according to UC Riverside physics professor Jose Wudka.

The letters of intent were chosen by a selection committee made up of 10 UC faculty members, said DoQuyen Tran-Taylor, pilot program manager. According to Gary Matkin, UC Irvine dean of Continuing Education, Distance Learning and Summer Session and a member of the program's advisory committee, undergraduate and lower division courses were preferred by the selection committee.

UC Berkeley electrical engineering and computer science lecturer Dan Garcia's course "CS 10: The Beauty and Joy of Computing," which connects programming with "the big ideas of computing," was one of the 30 finalists. Garcia, who was notified of his acceptance two weeks ago, said he is already familiar with online courses and that he currently "screen-casts" his lectures online.

After three years working on developing the course, Garcia said he decided to send a letter of intent to the project because he "loved the idea of gaining new audiences."

Although some faculty members have been skeptical of the success of online education, Tran-Taylor said the pilot project is first and foremost a research program.

"(The project) is investigating whether online instruction can be done effectively," she said. "We're really looking at whether we can do this well and cost-effectively."

Wendy Brown, co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, said that although the association does not oppose a pilot project in online courses, the organization as a whole is doubtful of the project's future success because online courses at other universities have not proven to be successful.

"We're pretty skeptical about the project of putting high quality undergraduate instruction online," she said.

But UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and advisory committee member Jim Davis said in an e-mail that the addition of online courses to the UC system is "both a growing expectation and an educational opportunity."

"Online courses offer potential ways to support access, timely graduation and minimized student costs especially with respect to high demand courses," he said in the e-mail.


Correction: Friday, April 22, 2011
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Dan Garcia is a professor of computer science. In fact, he is a lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Katie Bender at [email protected]

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