Access to online higher education – that has increased quickly over recent years – has shaken up the world of higher education, leading to Stanford University pouring money into researching ways of providing online learning, and colleges coming together to discuss ways to drive the provision of education in the future.
2013 saw the phrase MOOC which stands for massive, open online course, come into general usage as companies, many based in California, provided online classes to students across the globe, and galvanizing more traditional colleges such as Stanford into action to meet the new competition.
Education technology “is the beginning of a wholesale reorganization of teaching and learning in higher education,” associate professor of sociology Mitchell Stevens said. “It will very soon be an un-ignorable phenomenon.” A gathering of college presidents in July that included Foothill-De Anza Community College, Ivy League University of Pennsylvania and the Western Governors University that is an entirely online organization, met to discuss the future.
Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza College said, “We’re moving away from having faculty that were the conveyors of content to — now that there’s so much more information available — becoming more curators of the content, of helping guide all the sources.”
Foothill College offers 20 online degrees in a wide range of subjects, and has been part of a group of colleges to be given a $16.9 million grant with which to create the an online “education ecosystem” bringing together all the 112 community colleges in California.
The initiative plans to allow students to accrue credit at any of the colleges and count them all toward a degree; each student will have a single file across all the colleges to remove the need for transferring credits when they complete online courses at different colleges. A portal that covers the whole state will be opened in June 2015 at the latest with voluntary participation from the colleges. “This will make the records student-centric rather than institution-centric and will automate and simplify the process of transfer, qualification for financial aid and things of that sort,” said Joe Moreau, Foothill-De Anza’s vice-chancellor for technology.
Thor says that the new initiative “is a cutting-edge vision for California. I believe it will transform online learning for millions of community college students.” It seems clear that this project will make access to a wide range of courses easier for students across the state, and reduce the complexities of changing college, allowing students to pick classes from a huge range of subjects ranging from online legal degrees to online nursing degrees.