It’s no secret that the state of California is in a state of serious financial crisis. Everything from jobs, funding of social programs and services have been cut in an effort to close the budget gap.
Last month, one of our favorite online resources for e-learning news, InsideHigherEd.com, reported that one of the ways California is looking to save money is to increase the number of online courses the state’s public universities offer.
Teachers Feeling Threatened by Specter of Online Courses
UC teachers and administrative staff are said to be working in fear of a “bloodletting” as the state evaluates innovative ways to raise itself out of the budgetary mire it is stuck in. According to a declaration posted on its Web site, the UC chapter of the American Federation of Teachers said, “We believe that if courses are moved online, they will most likely be the classes currently taught by lecturers, and so we will use our collective bargaining power to make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members.” Lecturers make up nearly half of the active teachers of undergraduate courses in the state’s system, and they seem to have gotten their way with a compromise from UC: a new provision to the collective bargaining agreement was added to protect members, barring the system from creating online courses or programs that would result in “a change to a term or condition of employment” of any lecturer without first consulting the union.This gives the teachers the power to veto the creation of online coursework without the union’s approval.
Does the UC-AFT Understand the Future of Learning?
While across-the-board budget cuts have been affecting learning in the U.S. for time immemorial, are the UC teachers really afraid of losing their jobs to budget cuts, or are they afraid of technology invading the hallowed halls of academia? And, are they preventing the access to education that many Californians need in order to make necessary career changes that they need to undertake due to their own employment issues? Many unemployed Americans have endeavored to facilitate career changes through first time forays into higher education, or returning to it in order to strengthen their skills in order to recapture gainful employment. Many job-seekers need the flexibility of online learning so they can accomplish these goals; so do traditional college-age students who may not be able to afford full or part-time course loads because of the same budget cuts affecting state employees.
Online Push Still in its Infancy
It remains to be seen how the teachers and the state will fare in this battle to balance the budget while keeping education standards in place. Other states have been working on plans to make their university systems more cost-effective, and the most sensible way is by offering more online learning courses. Stay tuned…
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