By Carl Straumsheim
Two months after San Jose State University announced it would put its partnership with the online course provider Udacity on “pause,” university officials on Wednesday touted results from the summer cohort as “significantly better” and said the project will not be disrupted by a hiatus lasting through the fall semester.
The partnership, known as SJSU Plus, was unveiled with great fanfare in January, with many politicians — including California Governor Jerry Brown — saying it showed the way for providing inexpensive college education for a mass audience. The project then skidded to a halt in July as the first three for-credit courses — college algebra, elementary statistics and entry-level math — posted pass rates between 23.8 and 50.5 percent. The university announced it would spend the fall semester evaluating the project and its results, then reopen enrollment for the 2014 spring semester.
This summer, 1,380 students completed the courses (up from fewer than 300 this spring), and the project added introductory courses in psychology and computer programming to its course list. In four of five classes, more than two-thirds of students received a passing grade. Three courses also posted a higher pass rate than their on-campus equivalents compared to an average of the last six semesters. However, the retention rate in those courses dropped.
“To all those people who declared our experiment a failure, you have to understand how innovation works,” Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun wrote in a blog post. “Few ideas work on the first try. Iteration is key to innovation. We are seeing significant improvement in learning outcomes and student engagement. And we know from our data that there is much more to be done.”
[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/28/san-jose-state-u-posts-improved-online-course-results-udacity-partnership-remains ]