University of California (Santa Cruz) Distance Learning

“Combining the intimacy of a small liberal arts college with the depth and rigor of a major research university”, the University of California at Santa Cruz stands alongside the other ten colleges in the UC system in earning “international recognition for quality research and world-class teaching”. Operating since 1965, it has grown “one college at a time” to become the modern research university it is today, offering fine traditional undergrad and graduate programs, as well  as unique “west coast” twists that distinguish UCSC as a thing unto itself.

Currently operating out of a ten college campus that is, apart from being a hotbed of political activism (home to military protests and cannabis activism),is a model of innovative education, both in their majors (the popular Computer Game Design program, the first of its kind in the UC system) and in their teaching methods (with numerous cross-disciplinary programs, regardless of major). Enrolling over 16,000 students annually, with about 15,000 undergrads, UCSC offers over 90 majors of study, with about 30 of those Master’s or PhD level. Core liberal arts courses are taken across the ten colleges (with names ranging from Cowell, to Nine and Ten), inducing as much cross-study as possible, giving the widest range of base knowledge they can.

Distance learning is not at a premium here, though there are online classes offered, or classes that include online segments or give supplemental Internet material. There is a distance learning room in the Baskin Engineering building, utilizing HD cameras and monitors to allow two-way, real time video education from anywhere in the world, without losing any of the interactiveness of a traditional class (done often for guest speakers/educators). There is no online degree program here (it is strangely absent from most UC schools), but tools like the eCommons collaborative learning environment (allowing faculty, students and researchers to create sites to facilitate online group work), numerous computer labs, and educational opportunities for teachers looking to maximize online aspects in the class are plentiful.

Grades are also unique at UCSC, with a narrative system that involves only pass or no pass gradings, as well as narrative evaluations, rather than just stamping a letter and moving on. Though there are department oddities as with the History of Consciousness division, popular majors still trend towards traditional programs such as business, psychology, and film/media studies. Their first professional school was in Engineering, a program that continues to grow annually adding programs from computer engineering to programs in technology and information management.

The research end of things aligns with other UC schools, offering firsts and funding in a number of differing areas. They were the first school to assemble the DNA sequence of the human genome, have become #1 in the country in training physicists and linguists, helped write the theory of Dark Matter, and are perfecting an artificial retina, so variety is the spice of life here.

Internships are integral to programs like community studies and teacher education, happily provided with many options from the surrounding California area (its just a short hop south of San Francisco). There are also numerous study abroad options, from semesters at the University of New Hampshire to more exotic locations in another of the 34 countries that host UCSC students.

A world class research university, UCSC’s history of fine education is just as important to its identity as the 45 years of great research and political protest that has come to help define this unique and academically varied university. A true California school.

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