Last month I shared the system announcement that the Cal State Online (CSO) initiative is finished. Despite the phrasing of “re-visioning” and the retention of the name, the concept of a standalone unit to deliver and market online programs for the system is gone. Based on documents obtained by e-Literate through a public records request:
- The original concept of “a standardized, centralized, comprehensive business, marketing and outreach support structure for all aspects of online program delivery for the Cal State University System” was defined in summer 2011, formally launched in Spring 2013, and ultimately abandoned in Fall 2013;
- CSO was only able to enroll 130 full-time equivalent students (FTES) in CY2013 despite starting from pre-existing campus-based online programs and despite minimum thresholds of 1,670 FTES in the Pearson contract;
- CSO was able to sign up only five undergraduate degree-completion programs and two master’s programs offered at four of the 23 Cal State campuses;
- Faculty groups overtly supported investments in online education but did not feel included in the key decision processes;
- Pearson’s contract as a full-service Online Service Provider was in place for less than one year before contract renegotiations began, ultimately leading to LMS services only; and
- The ultimate trigger to abandon the original model was the $10 million state funding for online education to address bottleneck courses.
That last one might seem counter-intuitive without the understanding that CSO did not even attempt to support matriculated Cal State students in state-funded programs.
Terminology note: CSO measured course enrollments as “one student registered in one online course”, such that one student taking two courses would equal two course enrollments, etc. Internally CSO calculated 10 course enrollments = 1 FTES.
Below is a narrative of the key milestones and decisions as described by the public documents. I’ll share more of my thoughts in a future post.
- CSU officials did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story. The offer is still open if someone would like to comment. [↩]