Cross-system classes: The future of online education?

University of California students now have much more flexibility in taking online classes as they pursue college degrees.

The cross-system program is financed from a $10 million pool for online education and technology.

University of California (UC) Riverside senior Matthew Emeterio was worried that he might be short of degree credits and have to delay graduation past next spring.

But thanks to a soon-to-debut online program linking far-flung UC campuses, he expects to finish on time.

Starting next month, the political science major will be enrolled in a UC Davis course on climate change that he will be able to take via his computer mainly at night and on weekends, in addition to a full daytime load of traditional in-person courses at UC Riverside.

He will be among the pioneers in an effort encouraging UC students to tap into faculty brainpower and curricula across the UC system while also exploring emerging online education.

“The convenience factor of it is hard to overstate,” Emeterio explained. “It gives me so much more flexibility. And being able to squeeze in those extra units gets me through the graduation requirements faster.”

The new cross campus enrollment is a change for a university system criticized for being too slow in adopting online courses and too Balkanized among its nine undergraduate campuses to significantly share teachers and classes.

Individual UC campuses already have offered some online classes, mainly geared to their own students and most frequently in summer.

But students from, say, UC Santa Cruz who wanted to take a UC San Diego online course faced bureaucratic and technological hassles in the past, officials concede. Just finding out what online classes were offered across UC was a difficult chore, and getting approval to enroll took so much paperwork that it discouraged participation.

The new program aims to streamline the process with a central online catalog of courses and much easier registration and departmental approvals available online.

Plus, administrators hope the system eventually will detail which courses fulfill requirements for various majors and minors at all the campuses.

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