The University of California, Berkeley , has created its first online degree program -- a master’s degree in public health.
Earning a degree will cost about $52,000 to $59,000.
Students, starting in spring 2012, will be able to earn an M.P.H. degree in two and a half years by doing 85 percent of their coursework online and going to three sessions on campus that total 15 days.
Courses in the program will be offered all year round -- spring, summer and fall terms.
BERKELEY — With the flip of two switches — and a bit of face powder — Berkeley faculty members can now make professional-quality multimedia recordings for presentation online, at a small fraction of the going commercial rate.
There are two things Clint McElroy knows about community-college students: A huge number of them don't stay in school. And many of them—who are often the first in their families to go to college, and who must juggle work and parenting—don't understand how to balance all those demands while studying at the college level.
Enrollment in online courses grew by more than 10 percent between fall 2009 and fall 2010, continuing a steady climb that dates back years, according to the Babson Survey Research Group’s annual survey of more than 2,500 higher-education institutions.
In some circles, online education has a bad reputation. Accusations that some for-profit companies prey on unsuspecting students to rake in federal financial aid have led to image problems for the sector. Critics see online education, offered in particular by for-profit colleges, as the dark underbelly of higher education, with the quality of Internet courses second to the greed of unscrupulous investors.
And now the critics are counting on accreditors to clean up the problems.
UC Merced officials are trying to figure out how to make online instruction as effective as its counterpart in the classroom.
"A lot of the information out there shows that the kind of students that we have don't really do as well online as they do face to face," said Keith Alley, executive vice chancellor and provost at UC Merced.
Not only officials at UC Merced, but also educators nationwide aretrying to find out what would make online education as engaging as in-person learning.
The specter and promise of online education is perhaps nowhere more deeply felt than in California, where campus administrators and instructors are faced with a bloodletting. University of California officials have suggested that the system will have to innovate out of the current financial crisis by expanding online programs. (State house analysts agree.) Instructors, meanwhile, are terrified that this is code for cutting their pay, or increasing their workloads, or outsourcing their jobs to interlopers, or replacing them with online teaching software.
The UC Online Instruction Pilot Project (OIPP) — launching in January 2012 — will offer 29 interactive courses through its online program. “Digital Music Creation and Production” and “Acoustics” — which will be taught by music professor Shlomo Dubnov — are UCSD’s only planned online course offerings at this time.
Online coursework may be cost efficient for the UC system, but concerns about quality control and sustainability must be addressed before flipping the switch.