Sunday, June 12, 2011

Could Jack Scott's Online Course Fee Headache Become Yudof's?

Given UC's plans to expand online course instruction, students should pay special attention to this article on the CCCs-check out:
Community college system looking into online fees

California community college officials are looking into whether students are being charged improper fees to access online courses at campuses across the state.

"If the fees are not valid, the chancellor's office will direct the colleges to cease and desist the practice, and provide direction on how to proceed," said Paige Marlatt Dorr, spokeswoman for Jack Scott, chancellor of the 112-college system.

The review could impact hundreds of students and dozens of community colleges that increasingly are turning to online classes as a cheaper alternative in an era of deep budget cuts.

The state investigation was initiated in response to a June 3 story in The Chronicle highlighting complaints at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills from students who had to pay $78 to a publishing company to access an online math class after paying their $85 registration fee.

Hundreds of colleges use private companies to provide course materials such as online books that students cannot access after finishing the class. Critics say it is against state laws to charge twice for access to a class, a practice that's common throughout the state's community college system.

If the fees are found to be improper, instructors who rely on ready-made, Web-based classes from commercial publishers might have to abandon those products in favor of developing their own online courses - or using those created by other professors - on free, open-source software, as many already do.

Alternatively, state education officials could move to change state law to permit the extra fees.

"We don't want to chill the growth of quality online courses," said Assemblyman Marty Block, D-San Diego, chairman of the higher education committee. "On the other hand, we want to follow the letter of the law. So this may require a legislative fix."

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