Just as troubles with technology needed to be worked out in Izumo's class, state educators are trying to figure out how to make Internet learning effective.
Accreditation, which certifies that a school is meeting academic standards set by a regional association, is one key stumbling block. It is still not clear how the role of accreditation will change with online instruction delivery. Some experts would like assessors to measure both class procedures and student performance when accrediting a course, which could be troublesome when it involves online students.
At the moment, the faculty senates at each college and university in the state are deciding whether to approve Internet classes. This has kept faculty members involved in a process they fear could be taken away from them, Toy said.
There is still plenty of room for growth and change in the area of online instruction. Just a few years ago, educators and legislators hoped Internet classes would be a major source of income. Having hundreds of students enrolled in online classes would lessen the demand on campus facilities. That could bring in big bucks for a public school system that always seems to be facing financial hardship.
"I think that was a hope rather than based on reality," Toy said. "At this point, I think people are finding that even though there is a long-term savings in capital expenses . . . the operational cost of an online course could be more expensive or at least as expensive."
Educators had also hoped that more Internet learning programs would help alleviate the wave of students expected to flood California's universities in the next decade.
"At this point, it is only a very very small part of the whole solution," Toy said.
But don't underestimate the impact that Internet learning programs will have on institutions of higher learning, experts say. The new courses are expected to draw students, like Delkhaste and Roberts, who wouldn't normally be able to go back to school to improve job skills.
"It's the first major change in how we do the business of higher education that has come along in a long time," said Patrick Callan, president of the San Jose-based National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "Those who want to dismiss this are not very realistic, and those who say this is going to solve our problems are also a little off kilter."
Despite the concerns at Moorpark College, faculty members and administrators generally seem increasingly willing to expand Internet instruction. "I definitely believe we are going to be offering more online classes," said Eva Conrad, executive vice president of student learning at Moorpark College.
Many agree that such courses could turn out to be just another way to teach--the bottom-line goal of every school.
"What people are beginning to discover is online doesn't mean some mass force of education," Hall said. "It means an alternative way of educating people very intensely. If that turns out to be true, that's very good because it means we have additional ways of educating people."