San Jose State will expand online courses this summer

San Jose State University’s experiment in offering low-cost, entry-level online classes for credit will expand this summer with two new courses and increased enrollment, officials announced Monday.

The university partnered earlier this year with the Silicon Valley online education provider Udacity to offer three popular “gateway” courses -- remedial math, college-level algebra and elementary statistics -- that are in high demand for students seeking to transfer or obtain a degree. The courses were initially limited to 100 students.


Enrollment in the remedial math and algebra courses will grow to about 200 students for the summer session, with a goal of 1,000 students for the statistics class. Two new courses –- computer science and introduction to psychology -- will be added, each enrolling 1,000 students. Registration for classes begins Tuesday.

Each class will cost $150, with no state or federal support. By comparison, a typical course offered through extended education can cost $750 to $1,000. The courses, which are open to anyone, should transfer to most other public and private institutions, officials said.

The pilot project was announced with much fanfare at a January news conference attended by Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been pushing the state’s public universities to pursue online education to help more students succeed.

Despite the growing popularity of “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, there has been scant research of their effectiveness as a teaching tool. By some accounts, about 90% of students who enroll in MOOCs drop out.

One of the highlights of the San Jose State program is a grant from the National Science Foundation to evaluate student outcomes.

In the initial courses, about 85% of students had been retained going into midterms, Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun wrote in a blog post.

“We’ve seen great promise from our initial pilot … and we’re incorporating key learnings this summer to enhance the overall course experience and provide increased support for students,” Thrun said.


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