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California Bill Could Allow Students To Take MOOCs for Credit

Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, of the California State Senate, has proposed legislation that would allow some college students in the state to take a massive open online course (MOOC) for credit.

According to a news release about the legislation, California Senate Bill 520 (SB 520) "allows students who are unable to find a seat in a required class, and unable to find a comparable on-line course at their school" to take a MOOC "certified by the American Council on Education (ACE) or other reputable course reviewers" for full credit. Courses would also require "rapid" approval from a group of faculty selected from California State University (CSU), the University of California (UC), and California Community Colleges (CCC).

"These on-line platforms have the capacity to allow untold thousands of students to get into needed classes that--on traditional brick-and-mortar campuses--have fallen victim to budget cuts," said Dean Florez, president of the education affordability-focused nonprofit 20 Million Minds Foundation and former California state senator, in a prepared statement.  "The state could never afford to build enough physical classrooms to make available all of the courses students need to complete their degrees.  This move provides a great benefit to students at a relatively minuscule cost to the state."

"Technology can and should play a part in helping Californians achieve their academic goals in a way that is efficient and makes sense," said California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, principal co-author of SB 520, in a prepared statement. "Allowing students who feel comfortable learning through these programs to self-learn opens up seats for students who need that in person interaction."

Last year Steinberg introduced legislation, Senate Bill 1053, that led to the creation of an online library of open source textbooks using a "streamlined faculty approval structure," according to the release. If passed, the new law would build on last year's by providing a free online textbook from the California Open Source Digital Library to each student for every course approved by the faculty committee.

"Using the tools the California Legislature authorized last session, in conjunction with groundbreaking on-line platforms made possible by third-party providers, California will enable students to get the quality classes they need to graduate, secure in the knowledge that these courses meet every requirement expected in a traditional classroom, and more importantly, provide free OER learning material combined with the online course," said Florez, in a prepared statement.

"I've seen firsthand the situation many college students have to deal with.  Due to lack of funding and adequate facilities, students are paying more for courses, and staying at our institutions longer because course offerings have been dramatically reduced. Demand is high," said Garcia. "Expanding student access to online classes that can help them satisfy academic requirements is an easy way to start addressing the 'bottlenecking' of students at our colleges."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is the multimedia editor for Campus Technology and THE Journal. He can be reached at jbolkan@1105media.com.

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