California State University students can enroll in online courses at universities across the state under a new program this fall that looks to increase access to high demand classes and keep students on track to graduate.
The CSU system’s pilot program known as Intrasystem Concurrent Enrollment includes 36 courses, three of which SF State offers. It is the public universities’ latest move to expand online learning to increase opportunities to serve students.
“The idea is that if a student could not take a course at their university, a viable alternative would be to take that course online elsewhere rather than have to wait for it to be offered again,” said Mike Uhlenkamp, director of media relations and new media for the CSU system.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2013-2014 budget for the university system allocated $10 million to fund the online program. Sixteen percent of students at CSUs graduate within four years, and this program is an attempt to raise that percentage, Uhlenkamp said.
Students at their respective CSU campuses take priority to sign up for courses their university offers, while students from other schools must wait until a few weeks before the term begins to enroll, Jo Volkert, interim vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at SF State, said.
This semester SF State offered introduction to the study of labor, know your work rights and American politics. More courses may be added in the spring, Volkert said.
CSU students can take only one course per semester and must have a minimum 2.0 GPA to enroll. In addition, students who are enrolled in universities on the semester system would be ineligible to take courses from schools on the quarter system. Six of the 23 CSU campuses operate on the quarter system.
A regular or online SF State course must have a pass rate of 70 to 75 percent or better to be considered for the new program, although requirements vary by topic and degree of difficulty, according to Brian Beatty, associate professor of instructional technologies and associate vice president for academic affairs operations at SF State.
“We will not offer the course online unless we have evidence that students are successful and that they perform better or not worse than in face to face classes,” Beatty said.
The online courses offered to CSU students typically feature video lectures, online tests and quizzes and can sometimes require students to participate with classmates in online discussion boards.
Although the online format allows for more students to enroll, some courses require smaller class sizes to allow professors to interact with students often via email and grade materials like writing assignments.
The two labor studies courses can each hold about 1,000 students while American politics is capped at 100 students. According to Beatty about eight to nine thousand students enroll in online courses each semester or nearly one-third of SF State’s student population.
Despite the large number of students enrolled in online courses SF State does not offer any online-only programs, Beatty said.
“It’s becoming more and more rare to see students progress through their degree programs without taking at least one online course,” he said.
Beatty said the program was largely in response to proposed California Senate Bill 520 which hoped to enlist the help of for-profit Silicon Valley online course developers to solve the bottleneck problems plaguing the state’s university system.
Last Spring, San Jose State University started to offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in a partnership with online learning provider Udacity, which offers online courses to thousands of students.
However, San Jose State’s MOOC pilot program was quickly halted after more than half the students failed their classes at the end of the semester. Udacity later said that students in its pilot program, which included high school and community college students, were shown to be unprepared for the classes leading to the high failure rates.
“What online learning does is that it places the responsibility on the learner. Students who find success in online classes are usually independent learners,” Beatty said. “We (at SF State) serve students who are expected to be prepared for these courses.”
SF State officials currently prepare a proposal for classes to be added to the upcoming spring schedule of the Intrasystem Concurrent Enrollment program.