Udacity, San Jose State to partner for online ed pilot program

Udacity Pilot Program

CSU Chancellor Timothy White joined Gov. Jerry Brown, the San Jose State campus president and Sebastian Thrun, the head of an online education company, at a news conference today to announce a pilot online teaching project.

Three courses (six online course sections) will be offered to 50 matriculated San Jose State students and 50 community college and high school students. The curriculum and teaching is being prepared by San Jose State faculty working together with Udacity, a new company offering free, very large online courses commonly known as MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses).

This experimental project is designed, in part, to see if the drop-out and failure rates (as high as 90%) in so many online courses can be improved.

In his remarks at the news conference, Chancellor White highlighted what he sees as some key questions that need to be answered in studying this project:

“This is an R&D [research and development] project for us right now to figure out what are the moving parts. What is the role of faculty and the human contact? What can be done with technology? How they interface? Do students learn? Do they advance?

“And [we are now] working out the bugs on a handful of courses with a handful of students.

“Then the next question is a business question. Can it be scaled up? And how do you scale it up and still maintain the learning environment that the students of today need to be successful?

“And if we can’t do that last piece, well then, we have to start again.”

CFA President Lil Taiz agrees on the importance of asking questions about student success:

She said, “It’s good the CSU is actually testing out these methods and starting on a small scale. We must find out which online tools work well (or not), for what kinds of students, and for what kinds of subject matter. There is a lot to unpack in the pedagogy.”

CFA and CSU managers have met on how the terms of work in the first semester of the pilot accord with the faculty contract.

“You can’t have quality learning conditions for students—online or in a classroom—without professional working conditions for the faculty. Our contract is an important piece of making sure we have fairness, equity, and quality in all aspects of CSU teaching.”