CA bill will make online courses transferable

Students are all too familiar with the sting of being rejected from an overcrowded class and the hopelessness of signing up for yet another wait list.

Those days of despair may soon be a thing of the past when the California Senate introduces a bill that would require public colleges and universities to grant credit for online courses taken through outside vendors.

The legislation that will be introduced Wednesday, March 20, comes as part of an effort to expedite the graduation process.

However, the bill has been met by strong disapproval from faculty members who feel that the state should not mandate what qualifies as appropriate coursework toward a degree.

The concern is that such legislation would possibly undermine the articulation process, by which courses and curriculum are approved by expert faculty in all the various disciplines offered at UCs, CSUs and community colleges.

“The real challenge will be to make sure that our faculty and faculty senate get a good look at these courses and really make sure that they fit within San Francisco State’s majors,” SF State President Leslie E. Wong said.

The bill states that students will be given credit for faculty-approved online courses, including those offered by free MOOC (massive open online courses) providers like Coursera, edX, and other low-price companies like Straighterline.

Leslie E. Wong admits that the approval process for such courses still remains unclear, but that critical discussions regarding their quality are currently underway.

While he understands the faculty’s concerns over the bill, Leslie E. Wong views the legislation as being no different than the process students go through when transferring credits from other schools.

“Students have to transfer in coursework all the time,” he said. “To think that online courses would be any different puzzles me.”

Regardless, certain faculty members do see a difference and remain in opposition to the bill.

According to assistant professor of Asian American Studies and SF State chapter president of the California Faculty Association, Wei Ming Dariotis, students will be the most affected in the long term by the bill that she views as a quick-fix solution to a much bigger problem.

“It’s saying that somebody can basically buy the certification of the education without possibly actually going through the process of being educated,” Dariotis said.

Dariotis fears that the legislation will create problems with students not meeting certain prerequisites, and that it interferes with the sense of community and self-growth that she believes is fostered only in the classroom.

Additionally, Dariotis is doubtful of the bill’s proposed faculty participation.

“They’re not interested in the faculty voices on this or we would’ve been consulted earlier in the process, but I think that they already knew what we would say, which is that we’re the experts in providing a quality education,” Dariotis said.

Instead, Dariotis feels that a better solution would be if the state invests in hiring more tenured faculty and building more schools.

“There’s no easy shortcut,” Dariotis said. “I just wish that they would stop trying to legislate those decisions that belong within the hands of faculty.”

While faculty and administrators remain divided on the issue, students see the bill as a welcome solution to the burdens of overcrowded classes and delayed graduation.

“I can understand why teachers are concerned, but I know that as a student in California right now, a lot of us are having a hard time getting classes,” hospitality and tourism major, Kiyo Tanji, 26, said.

It remains to be seen whether or not the legislation will alleviate the state’s enrollment crisis or accelerate a student’s graduation process, and while Leslie E. Wong remains optimistic of the bill’s potential, he is weary of the precedent it could set.

“When you widen who is going to approve courses beyond the campus, that’s a problem, and public sentiment shouldn’t determine the quality of a program,” he said.