Saturday, November 30, 2013

Zombie MOOCs: UC Online's "Pilot Project Cross-Campus Courses"

If you've been paying attention to the MOOC debate over the last year or so, you may have seen that for all intents and purposes the debate is pretty much over. MOOCs are dead. Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, recently acknowledged that his company makes a "lousy product." Soon after, Daphne Koller admitted that her company Coursera could in no way compete with the traditional, brick-and-mortar university which teaches through face-to-face interaction: "The best place to acquire [much deeper cognitive skills] is by coming and getting an education at the best universities."

But UC Online has always been, well, a ways behind everybody else. From the beginning, the project was unable to raise the private capital needed to get off the ground. The head of the project, former UC Berkeley Law School Dean Chris Edley, infamously claimed that he "should be shot" if he wasn't able to raise that money himself -- he was only able to put together the paltry sum of $748,000 -- but in the end he had to crawl back to the administration begging for an interest-free, $6.9 million loan.

If the program had been successful, that might not matter so much. But after a $4.3 million marketing campaign, only one student signed up for a UC Online course. A single student. Literally just one person. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported last February, while hundreds of thousands of students have signed up for MOOCs offered by other companies, "UC's approach snagged one high school girl who paid $1,400 for an online precalculus course at UC Irvine and four units of UC credit."

But the UC administration refuses to acknowledge its failure and continues to push UC Online. Below we publish an email written by Michael P. Clark, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning at UC Irvine, which forwards an email from Aimée Dorr, UC Provost and Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. The email describes a pilot project in which faculty are asked to identify and approve UC Online courses at other campuses that meet the major requirements of their own programs. This move, of course, would serve to integrate UC Online, parasitically, into already legitimate UC programs. UC Online, in other words, would become a zombie, feeding off the legitimacy of those programs in order to bring itself back from the dead. But there is a possible response. Here's a counterproposal: units ought to be urged to ignore, if not declare outright that online courses do not fulfill their requirements in their opinion. Faculty are being asked by the administration, so in that sense it's actually an opportunity.

 ---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: FW: ILTI Pilot Project Courses and Credit for the Major/GE
Date:    Mon, November 18, 2013 1:52 pm

Deans, Academic Senate Chair, CEP Chair, Chairs,

I am forwarding my October 17th email again as a reminder that ILTI
courses offered via UC Online and listed in the PDF attached are due to be
open for registration mid-November.  Departments are requested to decide
which online courses offered at other UC campuses through this pilot can
count toward major and GE requirements at UCI.  A following email will
list all of the syllabi for these courses.  Please send your decisions
about the courses in your area to Rob Ameele (
Your academic advisors may soon be fielding questions from students
about using these course offerings to complete their major or GE


Thank you,

Mike Clark
Vice Provost for Academic Planning


From: Deborah Chennault
Sent: Thursday, October 17, 2013 4:07 PM

Subject: ILTI Pilot Project Courses and Credit for the Major/GE

To:  Deans and UCI Academic Senate Chair
CC:  Chairs and CEP Chair

Starting Winter 2014, the UC Innovative Learning Technology Initiative
will launch a pilot project offering selected courses by UC faculty to all
UC students.  This pilot uses existing courses and is not directly
connected to the RFP for new course development that is currently under
way.  You can learn more about ILTI at

As part of this pilot project, ILTI has asked campuses to decide which
online courses offered at other UC campuses through this pilot can count
toward major and GE requirements at UCI.  A list of the courses to be
offered in this pilot is attached as "Pilot Project Cross-Campus Courses."
 Additional information about the courses is attached at "Online
Cross-campus Course Info."

At UCI, authority to make that decision usually lies in the academic units
(for major requirements) and the Senate (for GE requirements).   Please
ask the Chairs and other people who will make that determination in your
unit to review the list of courses to be offered in the pilot program.

Enrollment in these courses is scheduled to open in mid-November.  It
would be helpful if you could make your determination about credit by Oct.
31 and let me know what you decide about the courses in your area(s).

We will publicize this opportunity to all faculty and students soon.  That
notice will include advice for students to check with their advisors and
counselors before enrolling in a course at another campus to make sure
that course has been approved at UCI for use as the student intends (GE or
major requirement).  If the enrollment process works as planned, we should
be notified as UCI students enroll in courses offered by faculty at other
campuses, so departments can contact students for additional advising as

Please let me know if you have any questions about your role in this pilot

Mike Clark

Michael P. Clark
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning
Professor of English
535 Aldrich Hall
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA  92697-1000
(949) 824-4501

From: Aimee Dorr
Date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 2:38 PM

Subject: Online Cross-Campus Course Offerings


October 8, 2013


Dear Colleagues:

At our last COVC meeting, I provided an update on the status of Online
Education at UC and asked for your support and assistance in moving
forward with cross-campus online course offerings for Winter and Spring
2014.  This letter presents the help we are requesting now, assuming your
campus is willing to participate at all.

As you already know, we are undertaking a 2013-14 pilot project that will
jump start cross-campus offerings during the academic year, help identify
what is needed to make cross-campus academic year offerings work for
students, faculty, and campuses, and help guide development of the hub
that will be created to provide technological underpinnings for
cross-campus courses in the long run.  We plan to build on lessons learned
from this pilot as we continue our work to offer during the academic year
high-quality online courses to undergraduate students across the UC
system.  The project will involve the following:

1.     A limited number of courses for which ILTI will cover the
additional costs incurred when UC undergraduates from other campuses
enroll in the course (see two attachments, one a current preliminary list
and the other a PDF with basic information about each course on the list),

2.     Efforts to publicize the courses at every campus willing to have
its students participate,

3.     Efforts we will help organize to obtain approval on participating
campuses so that each course will count not only for units toward
graduation but also toward satisfaction of GE, pre-major, or major
requirements, and

4.     Use, to the extent possible, of a technological "mini-hub" system
to handle the cross-campus processes (see attachment with technical
information) and use of the current paper-based system otherwise.



Aimée Dorr
Provost and Executive Vice President