7 responses

  1. Nick DiNardo
    March 19, 2013

    Well said Phil. I am eager to see what happens with the bill. Considering this system is such a bear, do you ever think there is an opportunity for the public systems to consider a competency-based model? Not only would that drive towards their goal for completion, but it would focus on mastery rather than seat time. My gut tells me this type of undertaking wouldn’t be done. They would need to really put an emphasis on prior learning assessment, amongst other efficiencies.

    Thanks as always,


  2. Phil Hill
    March 19, 2013

    Nick, I think that SB 520 (language and intent) does allow competency-based education. Now whether the faculty panel will approve CBE courses or not is another question. The other issue is that most competency-based courses are bundled in a program – you’re all in with CBE or not. Would this work in a mix-and-match environment such as that envisioned by SB 520? Perhaps.

    I basically see CBE getting in to the CA publics through this bill, and StraighterLine is probably positioned best to take advantage. What doesn’t seem to be happening is a public discussion of CBE, its merits, companionship with PLA, etc. Maybe that will happen after the foot is in the door?

  3. Howard Davis
    March 19, 2013

    Phil, thanks for laying out the the progress of SB520. Doesn’t this bill–well maybe not the bill itself, but certainly its trajectory– also potentially disrupt the very core concept of curriculum development, and ultimately the purposes of higher ed? Academe has focused forever on defining degrees and degree pathways with and without regard for “marketplace” demands, students’ needs, transferability of courses, prior learning, etc.

  4. Phil Hill
    March 19, 2013

    “disrupt the very core concept of curriculum development”? I’d say that public institutions have done a fine job of that by themselves, to the point of making it almost a badge of honor that they are not influenced by marketplace or student demands. Remember, the concept here is addressing problem when students cannot take the necessary courses already defined in a curriculum. Listing a course as a component of a curriculum but not offering the class to the students who need it is effectively disrupting that curriculum concept and is the cause of, not the result of, SB 520.

    Having said that, yes, there is a risk here if the program were too successful and college became completely disassembled into ‘pick-and-choose each course from wherever’. But that situation feels a little hypothetical to me when we’re dealing with reality of students not having access to courses.

    To the degree that future SB 520 completely disassemble the curriculum – I agree that’s a (future / hypothetical problem). To the degree that SB 520 forces schools to pay more attention to marketplace demands, student needs, transferability, PLA – that’s for the good. To the degree that SB 520 would force schools into consumerism and just reacting to student whims – that’s a problem. There’s a spectrum here with a sweet spot.

  5. Howard Davis
    March 19, 2013

    You caught my impatience with the current state of academe, which is probably why I’m trying to get to that future point, sooner rather than later.

    I agree that “There’s a spectrum here with a sweet spot.” SB 520 does address the long-standing issue of students not having access to courses–courses they need to continue/complete a degree program. (As a former faculty member–aeons ago–I know the problem well.) And yes, the universities, themselves, have created the muddle. I was just suggesting that SB 520 is yet another highlighter of the problems higher ed faces and serves, hopefully, as a catalyst for change.

    Certainly not advocating for consumerism or academic dilettantism, but suggesting that we may have to have a few swings of the pendulum before we hit that sweet spot.

  6. Beth
    May 2, 2013

    Thank you for posting. I am very interested in this issue and have recently had discussions with students, university and college faculty and administrators about this issue. It seems that colleges and universities in California would like to offer all of the courses which students need to graduate, but have been unable to do so because of drastic funding cuts from the state, and years of underfunding. Providing adequate funding to our institutions of higher learning would allow colleges and universities in California to increase their course offerings. The courses offered by colleges and universities are accountable to the public. In the long run, I fear that privatizing higher education would lead to less accountability, lower quality of courses offered, and possibly higher expenses in the long run for students. California used to be a leader in education, both at the K-12 and higher education levels – our investment in education in the 1970s and 80s paved the way for Silicon Valley. Sadly, top tier, well-funded public education in California is no longer the case. It seems that our state Senate is sending a message that having an educated citizenry is no longer a priority for California. Perhaps we should look at prioritizing our public education system before privatizing it.

  7. Phil Hill
    May 2, 2013

    Beth, I agree that funding is a major component and that quality of public higher education is important. I don’t think the issue is as simple as a stingy state underfunding the systems. The institutions and systems have not been focused on solving bottleneck courses, and priorities are an issue – not just funding or resources.

    Also, what is the role of online education, which is not going away? California’s 3 systems have not been as strategic as SUNY or other systems in trying to use online for the students’ collective benefit. UC Online and Cal State Online have been too focused in my opinion on finding revenue from non-matriculated students.

    All in all, I think this is a complex issue that does not have villains on one side and heroes on the other. Like you, I wish that California would again be a leader in education.

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