Cal State Goes Online, Slowly

The largest public university system in the United States is finally realizing a vision of a centralized online hub — but is doing so in a relatively contained way, at least at the start.

The California State University System is announcing today that Cal State Online will begin offering classes in January, in partnership with Pearson. The 23 campuses in the system have offered virtual courses for years, but unlike numerous other public university systems in the country — see Penn State World Campus and UMass Online — Cal State has been slow to coordinate those offerings in a centralized way.

As is true for many things at Cal State, discussions about moving online aggressively have been challenged by a faculty that champions itself as a guardian of quality, but that some critics portray as an impediment to progress.

Two years ago, already battered by budget cuts and facing what portended (and have proven) to be years of additional ones, the system began exploring the creation of a hub it called Cal State Online. The system's faculty union, the California Faculty Association, bristled at the initiative, saying that the plan to work with for-profit partners would undermine Cal State's public mission and that centralizing online programs would put the system in competition with the campuses.

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