By Sarah Finkelstein | September 26, 2022
Photo Credit: Pixabay
The University at Albany continues to offer online and hybrid course options this semester with plans to expand online education in the immediate future. However, the United University Professions (UUP), a union that represents university professors, is concerned that the university is “haphazard” in its expansion and is not providing clear guidelines.
UAlbany went fully online in March 2020 and remained so for the rest of the academic year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. UAlbany began to offer a mix of in-person, hybrid, and fully online courses the following year in 2021.
“We know through our discussions with current and prospective students that there is an increased demand for online course offerings,” said Mike Nolan, UAlbany Senior Communications Specialist. “To meet that demand, UAlbany continues to offer and add new online and hybrid options, even after shifting back to primarily in-person.”
According to Nolan, online courses this fall comprise 15.4% of credit hours, up from 6.2% in Fall 2019. UAlbany measures the percentage of online classes offered by calculating the total credit hours of online classes compared to all course credit hours offered.
UAlbany has introduced a fully online informatics major and over 150 undergraduate courses online across various majors this academic year. Three other undergraduate completion programs will also have most of the courses online. These include CEHC (emergency preparedness, homeland security, and cybersecurity), human development, and criminal justice.
This quick-paced move toward online courses has drawn concern and criticism from the faculty.
According to Aaron Major, president of the UUP Albany Chapter, the university’s plans for online classes are inconsistent and unclear.
“Our chapter has repeatedly asked for clarity regarding the campus' plans for online education, but we cannot get any consistent answers,” Major said. “We know that the expansion of online programs has been part of the larger SUNY agenda since the launch of SUNY online but what this means, concretely, for our campus has never been articulated in a clear and consistent way.”
According to Major, the lack of concrete online guidelines has made it difficult for professors with medical issues or COVID-19 concerns to get online accommodations. “It has been a struggle to have those requests honored.”
“Our feeling, as a chapter, is that whatever expansion of online courses is happening this year is haphazard and not guided by any clear strategy or set of priorities. This is not good for students or faculty,” Major said.