At the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges and Universities in Atlanta later this month, I will moderate a panel on the digital revolution and higher education.

Since arriving at Cal State Monterey Bay, I have encouraged conversations with faculty and staff about how we can be more innovative and effective in our classroom teaching. Even with improvements in our budget outlook, we still face the immense challenge of providing access to more students while trying to recover from years of cuts.

I will moderate a panel on “The Digital Revolution: Online Innovations that Strengthen Completion and Quality.” Panel members include Diana G. Oblinger, President and CEO, EDUCAUSE; Jack M. Wilson, President Emeritus, The University of Massachusetts and Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, Emerging Technologies, and Innovation, The University of Massachusetts Lowell; and Candace Thille, Director, Open Learning Initiative, Carnegie Mellon University.

I think the “and” in the title of the panel discussion is particularly important.

Candace, of course, visited our campus in November as the first speaker in our Presidential Speaker Series on disruptive innovation in higher education. As those of you who attended her speech remember, she was critical of the quality of some on-line courses now available. On the other hand, she shared examples of engaging and effective technology-enabled courses that have produced excellent results.

Often, on-line education is presented as a simple answer to two major issues facing higher education – access and cost. There is little question that the massive open on-line classes (MOOCs) being put forward both by private companies and major universities offer the promise of vastly expanded access to higher education to anyone with Internet access.

The cost issue is less clear-cut. Developing effective on-line courses can be expensive. Still, there could well be economies of scale that produce savings through on-line education.

In the final analysis, however, the issue of quality is paramount.
For the most part, MOOCs still rely on the traditional lecture method for the transmission of information. Advances in information technology and cognitive science offer us real opportunities to improve how we teach and how our students learn. Whether those methods are employed in MOOCs or in traditional classrooms, the ultimate measure of their success must be their impact on student learning.

Easy access to less-expensive education is an empty exercise if learning isn’t the end result.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to be part of this continuing discussion. Change is swirling around higher education. Which innovations will succeed and which will not is impossible to predict. What is clear, however, is that maintaining the status quo is not a viable option.

CSU Online: In that regard, I am pleased to report that Cal State Monterey Bay will offer two on-line degree programs as part of the pilot phase of Cal State Online. Enrollment is now open for on-line master’s degree programs in Instructional Science & Technology and Management and Information Technology. Associate Professor Bude Su directs the first program, Professor Eric Tao the second. I greatly appreciate their efforts to keep Cal State Monterey Bay in the forefront of this promising effort.

The online higher education marketplace presents some interesting challenges. Prospective students are not place-bound and can choose from any available degree program that meets their needs. We are optimistic, however, that the quality of these programs and the reach and reputation of the Cal State system will help make them successful.

Budget news: As you probably have read, Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2013-14 budget seeks $125.1 million in new state funding for the CSU, and provides $125 million in reimbursements for reductions made last year.

While we realize this is just the first step in the budget process, it is a positive one for our students and the Cal State universities. We hope the final budget will help us continue our recovery from the damaging cuts of recent years and allow us to provide affordable access to more students in the years to come.

As always, I welcome your comments on this newsletter or on any issues facing the university. You may direct them to president@csumb.edu

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Eduardo M. Ochoa
Interim President, Cal State Monterey Bay