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State report: Cal State University needs to improve online education

By in Press Enterprise on January 4, 2018

By Roxana Kopetman

Cal State University needs to improve students’ access to online courses and how it reports data, according to a state watchdog report released Wednesday.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office detailed a number of issues in evaluating CSU’s cross-campus online education program, which allows students to register for classes at CSU campuses other than theirs.

Finding online courses using the Cal State database is difficult, the chancellor’s office provided “insufficient” information needed to evaluate the university’s registration process, and few students registered for online classes at other campuses, the six-page report says.

In 2015, some 80,000 undergraduate students, or 19 percent of those in the CSU system, and 6,600 graduate students, or 12 percent, took at least one course in which all of the work was done online. The university system, the largest in the country, offers about 1,500 online courses that do not require in-class attendance.

But the vast majority of those students stuck to registering for online courses based at their own campuses.

On average, only two full-time students per campus were enrolled in online courses at different locations in the fall of 2015, according to the report.

“They probably don’t know about the opportunity,” said Paul Steenhausen, an education analyst who wrote the report. “And if they know about it, they go to the database and they can’t find the class they want because of the search engine’s limitations.”

In 2013, the state Legislature required the CSU system to improve students’ access to online coursework offered at sister campuses. Online schooling is touted as increasing access to college, offering flexibility, freeing up space on campus for other students, and – potentially – speeding up and improving graduation rates.

Fewer than 15 percent of CSU undergraduate students graduate in four years, and fewer than 50 percent graduate in six years.

In response to the report, CSU […]    

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