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UC Online Program kicks off with first course

A calculus course at UC Merced marks the first class to be offered through UC’s online instruction project, with several more courses to be rolled out in early April.

The program’s inaugural course, which began Jan. 17, is a preparatory calculus class taught by instructors Lei Yue and Maria Albert. It blends online coursework with weekly two-hour discussion sessions. The format enables students to work at their own pace, focusing on the areas in which they need the most practice and moving quickly through material they are grasping easily, according to Yue.

UC’s online instruction program is a systemwide effort that aims to explore and develop the use of online education in UC’s undergraduate curriculum. Through the program, UC faculty will offer high-enrollment, lower-division gateway courses for full course credit, first to UC students at their home campuses, then to non-UC students for transferrable credit, and ultimately, to students at other UC campuses.

Coordinated through UCOP and involving all nine undergraduate campuses, the online instruction project consists of a number of key components. One of these is an evaluation program that will gather comprehensive data on what works in online education and what doesn’t, data that can inform the way online education is delivered in a field that has thus far been notoriously understudied. The results of this evaluation will be presented in a report to be released toward the end of 2012.

Another core aspect of the program is the creation of an open-source learning platform, called the Common Learning Environment (CoLE), aimed at offering faculty greater flexibility in teaching their courses than what is currently available on the market. Built by a dedicated project team from top-tier universities – including UC Berkeley, with contributions from staff across the system – the CoLE seeks to incorporate the best elements of existing learning tools and systems and to adapt other capabilities, such as those in social media, to the academic environment.

More than 20 courses, with at least one from each of the nine undergraduate campuses, are in development for the program. Proposals for a second wave of courses, to begin in 2013, have been submitted and will be evaluated for development over the next several months.

The online project will roll out in several phases, with five to seven courses currently in development to begin in early April at campuses on the quarter system. Another half-dozen courses are planned for the summer.

Go to the UC Newsroom for the complete story by Nicole Freeling, UCOP communications coordinator for academic affairs.

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