UC unveils 20 new online courses for high-demand classes

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UC Online, a University of California initiative piloted in 2012, recently released a list of 20 online courses, some of which will be offered as early as next semester.

While each class will be centered at a particular campus, students from both within and outside of the university will be able to enroll in the high-demand undergraduate courses to receive credit. UC Berkeley is slated to house five of these classes.

UC undergraduates can enroll in these courses during the school year at no additional cost. Depending on the length of the class and its number of units, students not from the UC system will pay between $1,050 and $2,100 per course.

Classes include elementary Spanish, introduction to computer science and general psychology.

UC Online aims to relieve pressure from high-demand classes and assist students in completing their undergraduate education within four years. The program is one component of the university’s broader efforts to increase its online course offerings.

In June, Gov. Jerry Brown earmarked $10 million in one-time state funds for the university that are being used to finance the Innovative Learning Technology Initiative, a program that seeks to meet UC-specific online course demand.

“Saving money is certainly desirable,” said UC spokesperson Shelly Meron in an email. “But it’s not the main objective of ILTI or our other efforts around online education.”

According to Greg Niemeyer, a UC Berkeley associate professor of art practice and director of the campus Center for New Media, if more than 10 students at a particular campus enroll in one of the UC Online courses, a graduate student instructor will be hired to work there on site.

Niemeyer taught “Principles of Internet Citizenship,” listed as Art W23, twice through UC Online, although he has also taught the class in a traditional classroom setting. Pending campus approval, he will teach this class online again in the spring.

“With online education, we have this problem of less face-to-face interaction — something we’re very good at as human beings, something that needs to be cultivated,” Niemeyer said.

To compensate for this problem, Niemeyer took advantage of Google Hangouts and deliberately scheduled video chats to accommodate students in different time zones when his course moved online.

UC Berkeley lecturer Dan Garcia, who previously taught “The Beauty and Joy of Computing” through UC Online, said that when he taught the class, he had few deadlines and required assignments.

When Garcia decides to begin teaching it again, he said, he will make changes to the structure of the class, including using the more sophisticated newest iteration of the UC Online software.

“People need motivation,” Garcia said. “They need these deadlines online because it’s not marked into their schedule to go on to the online experience from 5 to 7 p.m.”

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KVeklerov.