USC should consider advantages of online undergraduate programs

USC claims a distinct difference between its graduate and undergraduate education programs, the latest example being the announcement Monday of new online degree programs for the former set.

Online degree programs provide graduate students the unique flexibility to advance their education and pursue a career at the same time, allowing them both to more practically afford graduate level education and to get a head start in the professional world.

The university, however, does not have plans to create online programs for undergraduates because, according to senior associate dean of graduate and professional programs at the Viterbi School of Engineering, Kelly Goulis, that’s not what college is about.

“When you’re an undergraduate living on campus, being here and interacting with other students, it provides you with … things that are important as you’re growing and developing into the next stage of your academic career,” Goulis told the Daily Trojan on Monday.

This position, however, seems a classic case of USC-centrism. College isn’t about undergraduate education, really? What about the scores of young adults across the country enrolled in online undergraduate programs at community colleges? What about those high-school students taking e-courses for college credit through programs such as Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth? What about students who work or who cannot afford to live on campus and whom online classes could really benefit?

The sheer number of successful—and necessary—examples of undergraduate education indicates that no institution of higher learning should close the book on it just yet.

Besides, many USC professors and students already engage in a somewhat e-based learning process. Courses feature discussion threads on Blackboard, students turn in their papers through internet programs like Turnitin equipped with anti-plagiarism software, and students with laptops are constantly fact-checking whatever their instructors say in class.

Even face-to-face interaction cannot be considered a deciding factor. There are plenty of students in large lecture classes who never communicate with their professors except through email.

As USC applauds the advantages of its new online degree programs for graduates, perhaps they should consider how these advantages could confer on undergraduates as well.