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- Two (More) Battles Brewing
Two (More) Battles Brewing
Online education in California and the future of Inclusive Access
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While the holiday break was welcome for most of us, 2024 is shaping up to be as eventful in EdTech as was 2023.
We’ve covered many of the existential battles in EdTech, including regulatory guidance over OPMs, but there are two additional battles shaping up that could have great impact.
UC: Standing Athwart History, Yelling Stop
The University of California, with its 10 campuses and 300,000+ students, is one of the largest and most prestigious in the world. Ask them, they’ll tell you.
There is a conflict emerging between the Faculty Senate and Administrators over the role - or more specifically, rejection of a role - of online education for undergraduates. Last year, the senate voted to “close a loophole” and explicitly disallow fully-online programs for undergraduates, instead requiring a presence on campus each term. This decision was driven by a 2022 senate study arguing for the changes.
This study was preceded by a 2020 task force report. The point is that the UC Faculty Senate has been debating this subject for years, culminating in last year’s decision.
Today’s Inside Higher Ed covers the pushback from system administrators who are questioning this decision and whether the senate should be able to make that broad declaration.
Read the whole IHE article - it covers the background and multiple quotes on what the current dispute is about. While we don’t know the resolution yet, I will offer three notes.
While the dispute ostensibly centers on quality of online instruction, note that the changes from the senate do not call out specific metrics or processes to ensure that quality in the online modality. Instead, the senate essentially bans online undergraduate education, effectively making the argument that they have already determined that online education cannot provide quality.
There are plenty of letters to the task force and senate arguing that this policy would preclude reaching the increasing number of students who are looking for a fully-online option - you know, expanding access - the policy ignores the implications.
I believe the Faculty Senate has the right and obligation to have a strong role in academic standards and the definition of offered programs, but this solution by the senate instead relies on unilateral strategic decisions that are in reality much more focused on power and shared governance. You will not find useful definitions or guidance on what quality online education should mean, or even the cited term of “UC quality” that encompasses face-to-face and hybrid modalities.
The End of Inclusive Access?
There is an interesting thread on the CCCOER community (h/t Stephen Downes) about the negotiated rulemaking started this week and how the US Department of Education (ED) has drafted an initial position paper that would effectively kill, or fundamentally change, the Inclusive Access and Equitable Access models favored by academic publishers. The thread is based on an email describing the changes.
The actual ED position paper can be found here.
What makes this thread interesting is that one of the proponents (or possibly one of the authors) of the ED policy position, Nicole Allen, responded to the thread with useful descriptions. I strongly believe that her descriptions are not just accurate, but endorsed and coordinated, so they are worth considering.
Nicole is right that this is the beginning of a long process, but we clearly know ED’s position and that of its aligned activist groups.
Where I disagree is that should this policy change be adopted, that it would simply require changes such as moving from opt-out to opt-in. The entire business model behind IA/EA would be undermined, and at best become a shell of itself.
It could be that the end result of the negotiated rulemaking process will be a set of changes (such as opt-out to opt-in) that will keep IA/EA in place, but that is not the starting position.
Keep watching both of these developments.
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