At the most recent faculty meeting, the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEP) proposed a change to the College’s current policy that would make it possible for students to take online courses for credit. Currently, Bowdoin does not accept transfer credits from online courses of any kind, and the new policy would leave it up to departments to decide whether or not to grant credit for a course.
Professor Andrew Rudalevige of the government department, a member of CEP, stressed that the policy sets a high bar, and that departments will review courses to ensure that they are “accomplishing something that we at Bowdoin think is relevant and worthwhile.”
Professor Bruce Kohorn of the Biology department, also a CEP member, emphasized that “the critical thing is that the department has the choice, just like with any transfer credit.”
Kohorn called the proposal “a very small part of a very large discussion about online courses.”
“That conversation needs to happen at Bowdoin,” he said.
However, he also acknowledged that there are “strong emotions on either side” surrounding the topic of online education.
Both professors noted the growing popularity of online education. Rudalevige emphasized that “a lot of places are having this conversation,” including peer institutions such as Pomona, Smith and Wellesley.
“We’re trying to be a little bit ahead of the curve,” he said.
One professor who is likely to vote against the CEP’s proposal, Robert Morrison of the religion department, expressed skepticism about the benefits of online education for Bowdoin students.
“In a lot of cases, online education can really enhance one’s experience,” he said, citing its ability to connect students in the same discipline across the world. However, he added that “I’m not sure what the gain in general would be when the instructor is no longer in the room all the time.”
Although the proposal does give departments a choice in whether or not to accept online classes, Morrison still disagreed with the principle.
“If we leave it up to departments, that’s sending a message that more often than not, we should be accepting these classes,” he said.
Faculty members will vote on the proposal at their next meeting on March 3.