Resolution Regarding Evaluation of Online Teaching

AS-3250-16/FGA (Rev)

RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU), in conjunction with Chancellor’s Office department of Academic Technology Services review the 2012 Statewide Academic Senate and 2014 California State Student Association (CSSA) reports on the use of online teaching, with respect to testing efficacy and cost effectiveness, and recommend to campuses they:

a) develop a campus wide database of students and faculty involved in online courses, for comparison with the general population of students, faculty and courses;

b) include both demographic and non-demographic information (e.g. hours worked, commute time, faculty rank, course section enrollment at census, and online format) in those data; and

c) in conjunction with the Chancellor’s Office department of Academic Technology Services, aggregate such information across the 23 campuses so as to provide system-wide data to drive decisions concerning online teaching at the CSU

; and be it further


RESOLVED: That the ASCSU, in conjunction with Chancellor’s Office department of Academic Technology Services, make these data available, with respect to students, and recommend to campuses they use these data to assess the desirability of establishing: a) student qualifications for taking fully online courses; and b) potential limits on the number of fully online courses a student may take; and be it further 


RESOLVED: That the ASCSU, in conjunction with Chancellor’s Office department of Academic Technology Services, make these data available, with respect to online courses, and recommend to campuses they use these data to assess the desirability of: a) establishing protocols for offering face-to-face or hybrid equivalent classes for each fully online course offered; and b) placing size limits on fully on-line courses to match the size of the corresponding face-to-face class; and be it further


RESOLVED: That the ASCSU distribute this resolution to the CSU Board of Trustees, CSU Chancellor, CSU Chancellor’s Cabinet, CSU Campus Presidents, CSU Campus Chief Information Officers, CSU Campus Senate Executive Committees, CSU Provosts/Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs, California State Student Association (CSSA), California Faculty Association (CFA), Chairs of the California State Senate and Assembly Fiscal Affairs Committees.

RATIONALE:  Enrollment growth funds requested by the Board of Trustees from the State, when given, historically are enough to cover only inflationary costs. The 3+% yearly enrollment growth of the CSU is, therefore, not typically covered. Additionally, despite record hiring (to replace attrition plus enrollment growth), less than 60% of the faculty positions required to be filled is funded. Finally folding in the effects of capital budgeting now having to come from funds previously allocated exclusively to operating budgets and it is evident there is a perfect storm in higher education financing.

Traditional responses to funding shortfalls (e.g. increases in student fees, Student/Faculty Ratios, philanthropy, impaction and percentage of part time employees; or alternatively, decreases in real faculty wages, library acquisitions, or athletic programs) do not work in the long run. Student fees have outpaced inflation 3:1 in the past 20 years while percentage of administrative hires have outpaced faculty hires 4:1 in the same period. Student/Faculty Ratio (SFR) has grown 30% on most campuses, to accommodate increased administrative growth, while tenure density and real faculty salaries have dropped 20%. Philanthropy
averages only 14% of campus funds. Further, impaction yields little benefit as increased enrollment demand and rate of acceptance more than eliminates the effect. Moreover, tenure density, faculty salaries, library acquisitions and athletic programs have an absolute zero point, precluding reductions in budgets these as long term solutions. Compound this by the continuing support of Student University Grants (SUG) and one can see why stakeholders are looking toward the use of online technology in teaching as a panacea.


Moreover, there are multiple groups embracing this technology and, therefore, contributing to this trend, each of which has their own vested interest in increasing use of online teaching: 1) the state legislature and Governor who want us to do more with less; 2) the Chancellor’s Office (CO) and Board of Trustees who want to be more efficient, especially in increasing graduation rates; 3) the faculty, who over time and through attrition, want to embrace change; and 4) our students are now fully evolved as digital natives.


That said, taken slowly, well evaluated and controlled disruptive innovations, such as online pedagogy in higher education, can have many beneficial effects. However, when artificially accelerated, it can have unintended consequences, such as the issue of support (e.g. Los Angeles Unified School District’s multimillion lawsuit against Apple) or the effects unlimited scaling (e.g. the
debacle that was the San José State experiment with Massive Online Open Courses [MOOC]), or the seemingly endless iterations of attempts to integrate diverse organizational structure (e.g. the Western Governor’s Virtual University, qua California Virtual University, qua Cal State Online).


Evaluated in its present state, it is evident that much of the impetus for accelerating online instruction is not based on pedagogical efficacy, but financial expediency. As evidence of this trend, most stakeholders have come to believe online classes are cheaper, more scalable, and not significantly different in outcomes from face-to-face classes. None of that follows from the technology. Therefore we, as faculty, need to be vigilant in monitoring this trend.


As evidence of this need, we continue to see the California Legislature enacting and/or introducing bills regarding technology (without a corresponding evaluation component) including, but not limited to, increasing student success rates in general, and bottleneck courses in particular, encouraging public-private technology partnerships, mandating electronic texts and using Cal State Online to among other things, equivocate online class credit between CSU campuses.


To date, however, despite considered online education white papers written by the ASCSU and the CSSA, in 2012 and 2014 respectively, no policies have been enacted by the CO, nor resolutions been passed by the ASCSU, nor any recommendations made regarding avenues for translating any of those reports’ recommended best practices, into policies. That we have recently hired a new Chief Information Officer (CIO) in the Chancellor’s Office, reformulating the duties and descriptions of that office and reorganizing its relationship with campus CIOs, this resolution is a timely attempt to address these cost and efficacy issues in advocating that the use of online teaching deserves such attention and evaluation.


Approved Without Dissent – May 19-20, 2016



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