The first 4-year UC Berkeley online degree is on the horizon. The Board of Regents at the prestigious University of California at Berkeley has informally endorsed a plan to bring the school its first online bachelor’s degree program.
The school already awards an online masters degree in engineering, while it’s Berkeley Online extension campuses offer more than 1,000 online classes. Other state universities, such as the University of Southern California and California State University, provide a variety of distance masters degrees.
However, this would be the first “highly selective” online bachelors degree offered by a top-ranked, prestigious research university, says Christopher Edley Jr., the University of California Berkeley law school dean who is leading the movement for the online undergraduate degree.
“Online learning would enable us to serve the growing number of qualified students for whom there will be no room on campus or for whom a residential full-time program wouldn’t work,” wrote Edley in a July 18 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Some UC faculty members are criticizing the plan, saying they fear online education may not suit all subjects (such as those requiring lab work) and may not provide the same level of quality as traditional face-to-face courses. Edley refutes these concerns, but is proposing that the online degree program start as a pilot project to test the quality of online education before it is more broadly implemented.
The online undergraduate degree pilot program would start with 25 to 40 online courses, including general education courses in math and writing. These classes are required for undergraduates and tend to fill quickly, so offering an online option would allow more students to take them.
Before offering the online courses, the school would first have to raise $6 million from private donors. This means it will likely take several years before the online degree program becomes a reality.
Backers hope offering an online bachelors degree program will save money for the cash-strapped University of California in the long run, since classroom space won’t have to be found and students won’t require assistance with housing costs.
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