Is it about making money or making education free?
The culture betrayed by this vision of UC education is clear — one in which educational models are constructed according to business practices.
Despite the pilot program's rhetoric of innovation and breakthrough, it's not the first to fuse Internet with education. Brown is quick to note that despite her criticism of the pilot program "[she] is not a Luddite." She described to us how the faculty is increasingly making use of online educational aids.
Many professors choose to broadcast their lectures online, allowing students — and anyone else for that matter — to virtually peek in on a lecture, either live or with a delay of hours or days.
Currently, more than 40 UC Berkeley lecture halls are fitted for video and/or audio recording. Thousands of transmissions, from biology to history, have been uploaded to iTunes and YouTube (see sidebar).
Although webcasts are highly popular with students — and students are undoubtedly the main priority for the program — people are tuning in from all continents, according to Benjamin Hubbard, who runs the webcast program.
For Hubbard, webcasts "[broaden] the window of access to all the scholarly activity on campus. We are fortunate in that we are public university, so first and foremost we have a mission of community service and making this content freely and publicly available matches this mission."
THE PUBLIC OPTION
Recognizing the enormous challenges of decreased accessibility and increasing cost, a growing consortium of educators and researchers are building momentum and developing a vision for a truly public online educational program.
Lisa Petrides, president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, calls herself a "public education fanatic." She told us that the instead of using online teaching as a money-maker, schools can adopt a principled, egalitarian approach.
Petrides is a signatory of the Capetown Declaration, a manifesto for the open education movement. The declaration calls for collaboration that cuts across institutional lines; for the use and promotion of free educational resources; and for policy support for open education.
"You start to have this pedagogical collaborative community that can use resources in this way, changing how we teach and how we learn," she said. To take analogy for computer software, Petrides says her movement is akin to the open source movement.
Now there's an innovative approach to online education — with its eyes on the future, not its pocket.