Is There a Cal State in CUNY’s Future?

In the August 22nd issue of Inside Higher Ed, was an article highly relevant to CUNY’s online efforts entitled, “Cal State Rolls out the Next Stage of its Online Efforts.”  The article is noteworthy since Cal State, for the first time, is entering the online arena in a centralized, coordinated, and collaborative manner. Cal State’s similarities to CUNY are striking:

  • A large, public university system with over 20 campuses;
  • An environment with significant budgetary challenges;
  • An institution very slow to adopt online courses or programs;
  • A skeptical, if not outright resistant faculty to online learning;
  • A faculty governance battle over recent moves by the administration.

The article outlines a gradual and deliberate process Cal State is taking to involve stakeholders in this transition. Pearson, a for-profit partner, is working with each campus to determine which programs would best lend themselves to an online mode of delivery. Initially, Cal State identified several graduate programs to take advantage of the maturity and motivation of adult learners in the hope they will succeed online.

The impetus to explore online was largely the result of massive budgetary measures imposed on California’s public institutions of higher education. Administrators began looking into centralizing  online development from what was largely a balkanized, sporadic approach to implementing online programs. Via an advisory board consisting of faculty, administrators and students, the beginnings of consensus, or at least a truce, began to emerge. With the acrimony behind them, Cal State can now begin a serious entry into the online marketplace.


I feel there could be several lessons in this Cal State story for CUNY, including:

  • The need for a more centralized approach to online implementation (my blog post).
  • The usefulness of public/private collaborations to accelerate online development.
  • The need for an institution-wide advisory board with all stakeholders represented to examine online policies and strategies.
  • The reality of budgetary concerns to spur online planning.
  • The recognition that online as a mode of teaching is not going away and, in fact, that it needs to be a part of strategic planning for the university.
  • The mission of both institutions for access to quality education being enhanced by online offerings.
  • The mission to serve students in ways that may stretch the beliefs and skills of existing faculty resistant to online.
The Cal State online saga is worth following.  It may point to a future path that CUNY may wish to explore if online learning is to achieve a fraction of its potential within this university. However, first there needs to be a recognition of online learning’s  strategic importance to this university.


Lederman, Doug, “Cal State Rolls out the Next Stage of its Online Efforts,” Inside Higher Ed, August 22, 2012. Retrieved from:

Link to previous blog post on Cal State:

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