I’ve been at San Jose State today, learning about an online education experiment that could affect high school and college students – and would-be college students – alike.
The latest idea is to offer three entry-level or remedial courses online, for CSU credit, at $150 each. San Jose State professors created the course using the platform of a Palo Alto-based online education startup, Udacity.
The pilot will start with just 300 students – 150 from San Jose State and another 150 from community colleges and the two high schools Gov. Jerry Brown started when he was the mayor of Oakland — Oakland Military Institute and Oakland School for the Arts.
If the experiment works – and, as Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun acknowledges, it might not — the courses might be available to students throughout the U.S. as soon as this summer.
The three courses to launch at the end of the month are already offered at some high schools: entry level mathematics, elementary statistics and college algebra. Often, in college, these same courses have waiting lists, especially at the community college level. As a result, students get caught up in a “bottleneck” as they wait to take and pass them. The failure rate is high. Some drop their college studies after that.
Of course, online education is nothing new, but it’s constantly being reinvented – especially in the last year or so, with the advent of free courses open to anyone in the world (mostly not for credit).
How it works: In addition to the traditional online component, with videos and quizzes, the students in this new Udacity/San Jose State initiative would be assigned mentors to check in on them (especially when they haven’t logged on in awhile) and help to set up online study groups.
Some students at the Oakland Military Institute already use one of Udacity’s other products, a free physics course (not for credit) that supplements the school’s physics class. Mark Ryan, the school’s superintendent, said he’s impressed. The platform is very engaging, he said. It also identifies holes in a student’s knowledge and focuses more heavily in those areas.
“I’ve never seen any online program that’s quite this smart,” Ryan said.
Do you think your students would benefit from more online courses, especially ones they might need to pursue a college degree? What questions or concerns do you have about this model?