New California Legislation to Provide MOOC Courses Full Academic Credit

Mar 13, 2013, 17:29 ET from The 20 Million Minds Foundation

Senate President's bill would permit qualified third-party courses that allow "a path to completion"

SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- California Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg made history today by proposing the nation's first on-line "path to completion" legislation for students across public colleges struggling to get the courses they need to complete their degrees, reported the 20 Million Minds Foundation.

Senator Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has called upon all public California higher education institutions to embrace technology, to the financial benefit of both schools and students by introducing Senate Bill 520.  The bill 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 for full-credit a "MOOC" – or massive open on-line course – certified by the American Council on Education (ACE) or other reputable course reviewers – upon approval by a rapid decision making group composed of California faculty from UC, CSU and California Community Colleges.

"We can either shape this MOOC movement or sit back and watch it shape itself," declared Steinberg, "we need to get out in front and have faculty take a leadership role in this."

Steinberg is building this year's bill upon an "open source" pillar of his legislation last year, which created a library of open source textbooks for higher education students by utilizing a streamlined faculty approval structure provided in that nation leading law signed by Governor Jerry Brown.  

"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 Dean Florez, President of the 20 Million Minds Foundation and former CA State Senator.

The legislation comes as the nation debates the role of MOOCs in higher education, initially offered by the nation's most elite schools for educational enrichment, but not for academic credit. Third-party providers like Udacity, Straighterline, EdX and Coursera have worked to create online experiences for some of the nation's most popular required classes, while ACE has been certifying the courses to allow students at schools like San Jose State University, UC Irvine and Georgia State University to take these classes for credit. 

Under SB 520, each faculty-approved online course would come with a free e-textbook from the CA Open Source Digital Library.  In the case of a course offered at San Jose State University, as highlighted by Governor Brown for example, the money saved on a textbook is equal to the cost of taking the MOOC itself.

The 20 Million Minds Foundation (20MM), a CA non-profit, has recently promoted the use of ACE certified course providers being allowed to offer students a path to completion at all publicly-funded institutions of higher education in order to help students avoid the "bottlenecks" that have added to the length and expense of a college education.

"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 Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, principal co-author of SB 520.  "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."

Today nearly half a million students at California's community colleges are on waiting lists for classes needed to transfer to a "four-year" school, while thousands of CSU and UC students can't get a seat in impacted lower division courses, adding greatly to the time and money it takes to complete a degree.

"Technology can and should play a part in helping Californians achieve their academic goals in a way that is efficient and makes sense," added Garcia. "Allowing students who feel comfortable learning through these programs to self-learn opens up seats for students who need that in person interaction."

"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 Florez.  "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."

20 Million Minds is dedicated to greatly reducing textbook costs. The foundation is currently leveraging leading-edge technologies to create more affordable, engaging and effective educational materials for college students throughout the nation.

CONTACT: Reid Milburn
20 Million Minds Foundation (626) 396-7071

SOURCE The 20 Million Minds Foundation