The UC system is about to open a new online academy for high school students: UCOA. (I’m a little confused about their using a .org domain name rather than a .edu domain name—this somehow seems to make it unofficial and a bit sketchy, as if there was no approval for it from UC).
Their announcement says that the materials will be free to California public high schools, but “Private schools and out-of-state schools may purchase online courses and instructional resources with or without the support on an online teacher at an affordable price.” There is no mention of what home-school students would be charged, though that is probably the largest market for online high school courses.
They claim that “The Academy is a collaborative effort between UC Santa Cruz and the UC Office of the President, and its curriculum is well-proven.” The only online high-school education I’ve heard about before from UC is UC College Prep, which provided supplemental materials only, not full courses. There was a UC Online Academy once before, which ran for one year in 2006–07, but was shut down for lack of students. Perhaps this is a revival of that effort, or maybe there was something in between.
I wonder, then, where this “well-proven” curriculum is coming from, since they say that “Thousands of students have taken these courses over the past decade.” It sounds like UC is putting their brand name on some commercial offering—I wonder which one. Perhaps they are trying to rebrand the UC College Prep supplementary material as full courses now? There was a press release in 2008 about UC College Prep creating new courses, some as contracts to Words and Numbers, LearningMate, and Math Resources, and some by UC Berkeley faculty. Most likely it is these courses that are being offered.
Informal reviews I’ve heard of the UC College Prep material are that it is dead boring, so we’ve never been tempted to look at it.
They claim that they will have 25 courses, with materials becoming available in October (carefully not saying what year, though the PDF is dated 2012).
ADVANCED PLACEMENT COURSES
AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Computer Science, AP Environmental Science, AP Statistics, AP Macroeconomics, AP Physics B, AP Physics C, AP Psychology, AP Spanish Language, AP US Government and Politics, AP US History
HIGH SCHOOL COURSES
Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, Biology, Economics, Physics, Statistics, United States History, Government and Politics
I also note that this collaboration between UCSC and UCOP is not happening either in Santa Cruz or Oakland (where UCOP is), but in Santa Clara, at what appears to be the office of the UCSC Extension program in Silicon Valley. That probably means that no UCSC faculty were involved in the program. This is probably one of those administrator-only efforts that carefully avoid having any input from faculty, lest pedagogical considerations be included in what is intended as purely a money-making activity. (Sorry, my cynicism is peaking today.)