When it came to unveiling a new push to create a series of online courses for California college and university students, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg thought it was fitting to deliver the news in a decidedly digital fashion.
So instead of holding a traditional press conference, the Sacramento Democrat and other supporters of the effort logged into Google to stage a "Hangout" video conference.
"(Technology) is overwhelmingly I think a positive force in our lives we want to use it to try to help as many young people, as many students, as possible be able to keep their dreams and compete in the modern economy," he said. "And so it felt like it was the right thing to do and consistent with that mission to hold this first-of-a-kind press conference using the very technology that we think can be part of the answer to the challenges our young people are facing today."
Reporters for several organizations, including The Bee, joined in via video chat as Steinberg, Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and several other backers of the online course proposal touted Senate Bill 520 as a way of improving access to higher education in the state. Other members of the press watched a live or via Web stream and submitted questions via email.
The bill would create what has been billed as the nation's first statewide offering of online college courses for credit. Under the proposal, a panel of college faculty would choose online options to offer for 50 heavily trafficked lower division courses in the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems. The classes would be open to students who needed the credits to advance in their degrees but were unable to enroll in traditional, in-person coursework due to full classes or other limitations. Key details, such as what classes would be offered, how much the courses would cost students and the state and how teachers will conduct quizzes and exams still need to be ironed out.
As for the "hangout," Steinberg's office says 124 viewers tuned in at the most-watched point in the conference. Aside from the camera shot giving several speakers a hair (and head) cut during the live video feed, the technology performed just fine.
PHOTO CREDIT: Rich Copenhagen, president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, speaks via Google Hangout during a press conference on Senate Bill 520. Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot.