Pilfering the public commons: on-line ‘earning’ scheduled for California Community Colleges


As students, faculty and community groups hasten to bow down at the thrown of the ACCJC to assure continuing accreditation, going so far as to appeal to corporate Senator, Nancy Pelosi of all people or, at worst, surly Senator Diane Feinstein whose husband Richard Blum is the knight in shining armor for the corporatization of higher education, meanwhile the Lumina Foundation, Bill Gates and other reactionary advocacy philanthropists are beginning to launch their new cyber plans.

They of course need accreditation to pull off their plan, their hoax and threats to pull it from community colleges is just that.  But what they need is an accredited college that has adopted their surly plans and laid the foundation for their privatization efforts and top-heavy administration.

For you see their real plans are to get rid of faculty, staff and learning in favor of on-line ‘earning’ which appears in the form of Massive Open Online Classes, or MOOC’s as they like to call them.

As a former on-line philosophy professor at Allan Hancock College, I can tell you it is impossible to teach liberal arts on-line, especially when the classes contain hundreds if not thousands of students.

Alas, though the new cyber learning equation is good for Wall Street and stock holders, it will assure that liberal arts gives up the ghost and leaves a deracinated and uneducated generation of young people beholden to ‘work under capitalism’ which is disappearing faster than tenure.

Even though Alex Abramoff, son of Casino Jack, lost his bid for student body president at Santa Monica College (once a community college), SMC college President, pepper spraying Chui Tsang has new plans for the college.  and they do not bode well for teachers, staff and primarily students.

Arm in arm, with a new gaggle of philanthro-pirates, Chui Tsang, himself, a made man at the Lumina Foundation, has hailed as generous a ‘gift’ that which is to undermine learning.

And where are the teachers’ unions as all this begins to show its ugly head: rank and file are trying to get new jobs while the overpaid and perfidious union leadership capitulates and signs deals with corporate democrats like Das Williams, the assemblyman pushing AB955 like it was a designer drug.  The ‘rank and fiel’ union leadership has bought into cyber learning as progress, thus assuring the demise of the unions themselves.

Did you know that:

California has been disinvesting in higher education:
2009-10 categorical cut ($313 million) and apportionment cut ($190 million); 2011-12 apportionment cut ($385 million).

Served more than 252,000 FTES for whom the colleges did not receive funding; while additionally reluctantly turning away another 129,000 FTES due to workload reduction.

Received no statutory cost-of-living increase between 2007-08 and 2012-13 creating a cumulative loss of purchasing power totaling 18.3 percent, or $994 million.

Reduced course sections ranging between 5 to 15 percent per college. Increased class size.

Fees increased from $20/unit in 2008-09 to $46/unit in 2012-13 – a 130 percent increase in five years.

The California Community Colleges enrollment decreased by more than 485,000 students to 2.4 million in three academic years (from 2008-09 to 2011-12) due to severe budget cuts.

Course sections (classes) were reduced by approximately 24 percent due to state funding reductions. Colleges have been forced to:

  • Reduce course offerings by roughly 15 percent resulting in hundreds of thousands of students being turned away.
  • Increase class sizes
  • Lay off adjunct faculty and other staff.
  • Institute furloughs.
  • Spend down reserves and borrow money to manage cash flow (http://www.richgibson.com/blog/).


SMC officials look to online education to fill gaps


Santa Monica Press, March 24, 2013

SMC — In January, Santa Monica College officials announced a $1 million gift from Santa Monica couple Conrad Lee Klein and Joan Dempsey Klein to create the Conrad Lee Klein Fund for Online Education.

College President Chui Tsang hailed the gift as generous gift to a program that was becoming an “increasingly vital alternative to the traditional classroom setting.”

“Working people, parents, individuals with disabilities, people who live outside the Santa Monica area and others who cannot regularly attend classes on campus will benefit immensely from this extremely generous gift,” Tsang said.

The donation came at a time that the potential of online education to reach a vast number of students without the normal boundaries of space or schedule was very much a topic of conversation amongst educators, legislators and even the governor as leaders struggled to find ways to fix California’s reportedly broken higher education system, which some say has failed in its objective to make higher education available to all Californians at a time when they need it most.

College degrees are required for many jobs in the technology economy fostered in California, and graduates with a bachelor’s degree make tens of thousands more than their peers with only a high school education. Those with advanced degrees show additional gains in average salaries and lower rates of unemployment.

With that in mind, colleges and universities across the state have been hopping on the online bandwagon.

The University of California system offered nearly 2,600 fully online courses and more than 90,000 enrollments in the 2011-12 school year alone, although the vast majority of those — 2,228, to be exact — were part of the continuing education classes through UC Extensions.

The UC system has also tipped its hat to the Massive Open Online Courses, better known as MOOCs, with 21 courses either offered or soon-to-be provided through Coursera, EdX and Udacity, online platforms that offer higher education courses for free (but generally not for degree credit).

SMC was online before it was cool, said Julie Yarrish, associate dean with the college’s Online Education Department.

SMC has been offering online courses for almost 13 years, making it one of the early adopters in the state. Today, every department in the college has some online offerings with the exception of the math department and cosmetology.

The college has 800 sections online, down from 1,000 before the budget crisis hit.

“At the beginning, people were not so sure, and thought it might be a passing fancy,” Yarrish said. “It worked very well, and it met the needs of our students.”

In the beginning, teachers interested in joining the online craze had to build their classes from the ground up. That means filming your own videos, creating tests and other learning materials and setting up the environment for students to take an active role in their education and participate in class.

Dorna Sakurai teaches an environmental biology course at SMC, and has done so both online and live on campus.

It took her three months to put together the videos and materials needed to launch the class, which involved learning new technologies so that she could include a mix of mediums — live video, screen shots and even animated tutorials — and keep the class engaging.

“There’s a lot of techniques you can use in an online environment to keep students engaged,” she said. “That’s the biggest challenge. You don’t want it to be like reading a textbook.”

Sakurai has some experience in these matters. She produces videos posted to Youtube for a dog training business that she has on the side.

“I learned how to edit videos. Some of those skills translate to the online class,” Sakurai said.

More important than the availability of the classes, however, is their impact on student learning.

A study released in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Education crunched data from more than 1,000 studies of online learning to determine what research said about student outcomes and achievement. The results were overwhelmingly positive, showing online classrooms to be as good as the brick and mortar variety.

That doesn’t mean the medium itself is superior, the report cautioned. Instead, the studies showed that online and classroom conditions often differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and even the type of instruction provided by teachers.

That point is something Brandon Martinez, a professor at the USC Rossier School of Education, stresses — online classes require a new kind of teacher that can manage and direct that kind of learning.

Throwing a traditional teacher into an online classroom may not result in success, Martinez said.

“One of the false assumptions that people have held is that content area expertise translates into being an effective online instructor. The takeaway is that people in charge of putting programs online need to spend the time to train the faculty so that they’re effective,” Martinez said.

For Sakurai, at least, the online medium itself has opened doors. Her online environmental biology class includes students from Taiwan and London, each of whom can bring their individual experiences of local environmental policy and practices to bear on the discussion.

“They have different recycling programs and pollution issues, it’s fascinating,” she said.

Some kinds of classes do not translate so easily to the online format. Think hard sciences, or anything with a hands-on component. While those kinds of classes have been tackled online, they tend to embrace a hybrid model that allows for in-person class time a few times a year, Yarrish said.

Although online classes are growing in popularity at all levels — the Department of Education reported a 65 percent increase in the number of K-12 students who took online courses between 2002-03 and 2003-04 — some still have reservations.

SMC’s Math Department has been testing out online classes for several years, but still hasn’t made the transition to online.

Moya Mazorow, assistant chair of the department who’s in charge of curriculum and learning resources, has been left in charge of the 67 hybrid sections that the department is using to get its feet wet. It’s raised a number of issues important to teachers, like how to handle office hours and student questions.

By 12:30 p.m., Mazorow already had 20 questions from students about homework.

Although math programs are routinely taught online at other colleges and universities, the SMC Math Department didn’t feel comfortable putting their coursework online until all students were able to participate, Mazorow said.

Online classes prepackaged by publishers come with online content, videos, animations and even tests and quizzes. Many are translated into English and Spanish subtitles, but Mazorow hasn’t seen one that can handle a student who’s blind or has limited vision.

“You can get away with things for a while until you have a student say, ‘Hey, but…,’” Mazorow said.

The SMC Foundation purchased a program for the math department that can actually speak math symbols, which would enable math-documents to translate to the online world. Mazorow is in the process of transferring all of the documents to that new language.

Another significant issue is the technology available to students when they are far from the classroom and the teacher’s watching eye. Some calculators are advanced enough to do the work for students with the click of a few buttons — only recently were programs available that force students to show their work in online exams, Mazorow said.

Although access must be part of the thought process, programs can’t just wait for the new best thing, Martinez said.

“I don’t think you should wait. You’ll wait forever because there will always be a new technology,” Martinez said.

The math department is expected to vote on whether or not it wants to move to an online in the near future, but nothing’s a guarantee with so many moving pieces.

“I hope we do it soon,” Mazorow said.


Students and teachers march after president of SMC, pepper sraying Chui Tsang unleashed the dogs on students

Students and teachers march after president of SMC, pepper sraying Chui Tsang unleashed the dogs on students



Print Friendly
Arne Duncan dress designer for the disaster that is public education

Share this Post



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Posts

About the author

Dr. Danny Weil is an investigative journalist, author and public interest attorney who practiced public interest law for more than twenty years and has been published in a case of first impression in California.He now lives in Ecuador.