Update on Chancellor’s Online Initiative

During summer 2011, CFA received documents from a $90,000 study by Richard N. Katz and Associates for a 24th (virtual) campus in our system called “CSU Online.” It is described as a ‘bold, systemwide initiative in online learning.”

The documents indicate that this plan had been initiated in fall of 2010 and had proceeded without “significant” faculty input. CFA is deeply concerned about the lack of faculty participation— those of us who actually teach students certainly have a critical role to play in developing educational programs.

As the unhappy experience with online for-profit colleges have shown, good quality online education is neither easy nor cheap to provide. Many of the faculty have experience both good and bad with online classes and that experience must be part of decision-making.

That is why CFA initiated the CSU Online Faculty Task Force that met during August. This group of faculty and staff analyzed the Katz documents, and sent a series of questions to CSU Executive Vice Chancellor Ben Quillian, one of the creators of this plan, Quillian was unable to answer our questions and deferred them to the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) as our faculty representation. It turned out, the ASCSU had not been involved in this discussion either.

From the union’s analysis of the documents, the intent for the structure of CSU Online appears to be a hybrid corporation that can utilize for-profit providers to engage international students, U.S. military returnees, and ‘underserved’ groups. This is, of course, a “cost-saving” strategy since ‘monitors’ for outsourced courses will be paid by the for-profit provider.

This plan is proposed for students in their freshman year who need developmental courses in math and English composition. CSU Online could weaken the quality of education for students by outsourcing courses to for-profit providers. The Chancellor can implement this plan without faculty or legislative consultation through his power of Executive Order.

A number of the documents mentioned here are found on the Facebook page California State University “CSU Online” Faculty Task Force.