A new California bill that promotes statewide online courses could reshape higher education and potentially decrease enrollment at Lake Tahoe Community College according to LTCC President Kindred Murillo.
While Murillo said it’s still to early to determine the exact effects the bill — SB 520 —would have on the community college, the controversial legislation has already sparked discussion in the education world.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced the bill last month. The legislation would approve up to 50 online courses that students enrolled in the University of California, California State and community college networks could take for credit. Those online classes could be taken as substitutes for the most crowded, lower division courses required for graduation.
Since those courses could come from commercial groups or out-of-state colleges, some educators fear the quality of the classes would decrease.
“The intent is to provide access to students. It really could open up higher education,” Murillo said. “But some people are concerned the quality won’t be as good.”
The debate over distance education versus a tradition classroom environment isn’t new. And if recent studies are to be believed, there isn’t a simple answer. One 2006 report found students performed better in a traditional setting. Another study published by the University of North Carolina found that, on average, distance education students scored higher than their counterparts in the classroom.
SB 520 could also affect community college enrollment.
Many students come to LTCC for the lower division classes required for a transfer degree to a UC or state school. With those options offered online,
Murillo said students might veer away from the brick and mortar institutions.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If students can access high-quality classes online, it’s a positive step forward, Murillo said.
“I think we have to stand back to take a look at it and realize it could impact us in ways that are positive and negative,” she said.