SJSU Honors its Faculty Members

Seventy faculty members stepped into the spotlight at the 16th annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon, and were honored for their work at San Jose State University.

“It is an honor for me to take part in this annual event, recognizing our faculty members for their years of service to San Jose State University and acknowledging the special achievements and contributions of this year’s four faculty awardees,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi in his prepared remarks.

2014-2015 Faculty Awards

“I have devoted my career to training students in order to develop the next generation of scientists who will tackle the next generation of tough issues in human system integration.  It is very gratifying to see that the university places such high value on those activities.”

With that said, Kevin Jordan, professor of Psychology in the College of Social Sciences, accepted the President’s Scholar Award. His 30-year career at the university is impressive. He’s authored or co-authored approximately 80 academic papers and presentations, supervised some 80 master’s theses, and secured nearly $200 million in research funding.

The Student Union ballroom erupted with applause as President Qayoumi presented the Distinguished Service Award to Scott Guenter, professor of Humanities in the College of Humanities and Arts. Guenter also received an award for his 25 years of service to the university.

Outstanding Professor Anne Marie Todd of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Social Sciences and Outstanding Lecturer Cynthia Baer of the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Humanities and the Arts also received a warm reception.

Yearly Service Awards

The university gave awards to faculty members with 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 years of service. William McCraw, professor emeritus of Political Science and a Humanities lecturer, was the only person at this year’s luncheon to receive an SJSU Tower frame for 50 years of service.  As he walked to the stage, everyone in the ballroom rose to their feet and applauded.

“I feel a lot of pride for being associated with this vibrant campus,” said McCraw.  “It seems just like yesterday that I stepped foot on campus.”

More than 350 people turned out to honor the faculty members for their inspiring work and dedication to SJSU.

 

Guna

Five Reasons to be a Proud Spartan

Kevin Jordan

Professor Kevin Jordan at a NASA event with Associate Administrator of NASA Robert Lightfoot and NASA Ames Director Pete Worden (photo courtesy of the Department of Psychology).

An SJSU professor who conducts research with graduate students and NASA scientists to make air travel safer has received a $20,000 Wang Family Excellence Award. Professor of Psychology Kevin Jordan will be honored Jan. 27 by the CSU Board of Trustees in Long Beach. Jordan has been a faculty member for more than 30 years, and has served as a committee chair for more than 80 completed master’s theses.

A student team is a finalist in Walt Disney Imagineering’s 24th Imaginations competition, culminating Jan. 31. Zaid Karajeh, ’16 Aerospace Engineering, Dondel Briones, ’16 Aerospace Engineering, Amanda Sharpe, ’15 Animation and Illustration, and Simone Getty, ’16 Mechanical Engineering, each received a five-day, all expenses paid trip to the company’s headquarters in Glendale, where they will present their entry and interview for internships.

Guna Selvaduray

Professor Guna Selvaduray with Daniel Khuc, ’15 Biomedical Engineering, and College of Engineering Dean Andrew Hsu (photo by Kyle Chesser).

Professor of Biomedical Engineering Guna Selvaduray received the 2015 Andreoli Faculty Service Award at the CSU Annual Biotechnology Symposium held Jan. 8-10 here in Silicon Valley. One CSU faculty member is selected annually for the honor, which recognizes outstanding contributions to biotech programs. Selvaduray led the development of new bioengineering programs at SJSU and the establishment of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

James Jones

James and Tamika Jones (courtesy of @LoveJones4Kids)

Everyone knows SJSU has sports champions. But do you know about our e-sports champion? Sophomore Loc Tran is a top player on SJSU’s video game team, according to The New York Times. “Video game competitions…have taken off on campuses across the country,” the paper said. “More than 10,000 students now play in the biggest college league.” Tran helped SJSU beat CSU Fullerton at a tournament last fall.

Oakland Raiders wide receiver James Jones, ’06 Sociology, and his wife Tamika Jones, ’05 Child and Adolescent Development, received the Drum Major Award at the 35th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon on presented Jan. 19 by the African American Community Service Agency. The couple founded the Love Jones 4 Kids Foundation, building on James’s start as a homeless child. Also honored at the luncheon with the Facing the Challenge Award was Congressman Mike Honda, ’68 Biological  Sciences and Spanish, ’74 MA Education.

woman pushing stroller and carrying baby while walking out of King Library

Inspired by His Sister, Spartan Designs App

Bloom_homescreen

Designed by SJSU students, the Bloom app minimizes risk by providing daily goals that adapt to the changing needs of an expectant mother over the course of her pregnancy (image courtesy of Jarad Bell and Cherie Yamaguchi).

It all began with a Spartan’s sister, who needed a good way to track data that would help keep her and her baby healthy through a difficult pregnancy.

That simple observation, by graduate student Jarad Bell, ’15 Human Factors, inspired plans for a new app recently accepted to the second round of a prestigious international design competition.

“The competition received 65 submissions from around the world and their manuscript was selected as one of the top 12,” wrote Assistant Professor Jeremiah Still of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Graduate Program.

Competing Internationally

The SJSU team will travel in April to Toronto, Canada, to present their work at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, the premier international conference on human-computer interaction.

“It is clear by the academic participation and industry sponsors, including Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg and Autodesk, that this is the place to shine,” Still said.

Five students collaborated on “Bloom: Fostering Healthy and Peaceful Pregnancies with Personal Analytics”: Bell, graduate students Cherie Yamaguchi, ’14 Human Factors, Max Wenger, ’14 Human Factors, and Peter McEvoy, ’15 Human Factors, and undergraduate Auriana Shokrpour, ’14 Psychology.

This year’s challenge was “to design an object, interface, system or service intended to help us to develop and share self-awareness, understanding or appreciation for our body data,” according to organizers.

Developing the App

The SJSU team set out to develop an app that would foster healthy and peaceful pregnancies by motivating expectant mothers to sustain beneficial habits and behaviors.

Within the Psychology of Design Lab, the team worked hard to develop and complete an iterative research and design process that explored how persuasive design characteristics could be employed to encourage self-monitoring and motivationally sustain healthy behavior in expectant mothers. 

Bloom minimizes risk by providing daily goals that adapt to the changing needs of an expectant mother over the course of her pregnancy.

In addition, the app maximizes peace of mind by offering tools that augment self-awareness and facilitate enriched communication between the medical community and expectant mothers.

Sister’s Feedback

“I have shared the project with my sister,” Bell said. “She felt that the app is the perfect way for pregnant women to take control of their health and be proactive about any complications or issues that may arise.”

SJSU/Udacity Update: Spring 2014

SJSU/Udacity: Spring 2014 Update


Media contact:
Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

SAN JOSE, CA – This spring, San Jose State will offer three online courses that were developed with Udacity to SJSU and California State University students.

San Jose State students are registering now for Elementary Statistics, Introduction to Programming and General Psychology. In addition, the programming and statistics courses will be open to all CSU students through the CSU’s CourseMatch program.

SJSU and CSU students who successfully complete the coursework will receive college credit. The cost will be covered by regular tuition. Udacity has made the content open and free to faculty members, and will receive no payments or revenue from this arrangement.

The SJSU instructors who originally developed the programming and psychology courses with Udacity will continue to teach these classes to SJSU and CSU students this spring. The statistics course will be transitioned to a different SJSU instructor in the same department. SJSU will hire and train teaching assistants as needed. All faculty members and students will use SJSU’s learning management system, Canvas.

Enrollment will be capped at 70 students for the statistics class, 150 students for the programming course and 35 students for the general psychology course. At least half of the seats for programming and statistics will go to SJSU students and the rest will go to CSU students.

San Jose State and Udacity established a partnership in spring 2013 to develop three interactive online courses for credit. The following summer, SJSU and Udacity expanded the partnership to include five courses. All five courses remain open and free to anyone through Udacity’s website. Those who finish a course through Udacity will receive a certificate of completion from Udacity.

 

Why People Believe Weird Things

Famous Skeptic Explains: “Why People Believe Weird Things”

Why People Believe Weird Things

Michael Shermer is a science writer, historian of science and founder of The Skeptics Society, which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims.

Who doesn’t want to know why people believe weird things? So expect a crowd when psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Michael Shermer delivers the Alan E. Kazdin Endowed Lecture in Psychology at 3 p.m. Oct. 8 in the Student Union’s Barrett Ballroom. Shermer’s books include “Why People Believe Weird Things,” and “The Believing Brain,” which present his comprehensive theory on how beliefs are born, formed, nourished, reinforced, challenged, changed and extinguished.

Kazdin, ‘67 Psychology, is among the nation’s leading experts on parenting and child rearing. The speaker series brings accomplished psychologists from across the country to SJSU. Psychology is among SJSU’s most popular majors.

Jordan Gonzales

Overcoming Odds to Earn His Degree

Jordan Gonzales

Jordan Gonzales, 2013-14 Trustee William Hauck Scholar (Christina Olivas photo)

For many years, Jordan Anthony Gonzales was having such a tough time battling dysautonomia, a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system, that he couldn’t leave home to go to school.

Now an SJSU student, Gonzales has received the California State University system’s highest honor for students who overcome incredible odds to attend college.

Gonzales has been named the 2013-14 Trustee William Hauck Scholar, one of 23 CSU Trustees Awards for Outstanding Achievement. He flew to the chancellor’s office in Long Beach on Sept. 24 to pick up the award and meet the other recipients.

While their commitment, drive and perseverance are extraordinary, these students are not unlike the thousands of students who look to the CSU each year for high-quality, accessible, affordable educational opportunities.

An art major minoring in psychology, Gonzales’ long-term plans include earning a master’s in art therapy so he can help people use artistic expression as a way to deal with grief and loss.

“Combining art with psychology allows me to share my experiences and reach out to others,” he said.

Gonzales also helps raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and he has served two terms on the Youth Commission for the city of Sacramento.

William Hauck, who graduated from SJSU in 1963 with a bachelor’s in social studies, endowed the scholarship in 2010. The endowment now provides $3,000 annually.

Hauck has served as deputy chief of staff to Governor Pete Wilson and chief of staff to Assembly speakers Bob Morretti and Willie L. Brown, Jr. At SJSU, Hauck was student body president.

Udacity on Ipad

SJSU Plus: Fall 2013 Update

[This item was updated Sept. 11, 2013, to reflect publication of the National Science Foundation report and historical comparison noted below.]

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

The following can be attributed to SJSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

With summer drawing to a close, we would like to provide everyone with an update on the SJSU/Udacity partnership. SJSU Plus began in January with just under 300 students in three courses. In June, we added two more courses, with 2,091 students enrolling in all five classes.

What do these courses have in common? All are entry-level classes most students need to graduate. This matches the project’s goal, which is to provide high-quality, low-cost college courses for credit to everyone.

SJSU and Udacity learned quite a bit over the past six months. The spring pilot study funded by the National Science Foundation has been published.

San Jose State has also posted the following document: SJSU Plus Grade Distribution and Historical Comparison.

We would like to share some lessons learned.

Here’s what worked:

  • Learning by doing works. Online video allows us to stop every few minutes and offer students the opportunity to try what they’ve learned with an online exercise. Instructors have found this so effective that some are incorporating SJSU Plus materials into their campus-based courses.
  • Student interaction remains strong. Does online learning stifle conversation? We found the opposite. Students are connecting with each other, instructors and instructional assistants through every means available: text, email, phone calls, chats and meetings.

Here’s where we’ve improved:

  • Students need help preparing for class. With SJSU Plus reaching well beyond the SJSU campus, we are enrolling a growing number of students who are unfamiliar with the demands of college courses. This summer, 89 percent of our SJSU Plus students were not California State University students. So SJSU Plus now offers orientation in various forms in all five courses.
  • Students need help keeping up. Everyone needs a little encouragement to stay on track. So we’ve added tools that help students gauge their progress and we’re checking in with individual students more often.
  • We need to communicate better with students. Although SJSU and Udacity try to be as clear as possible with our online instruction, we know we can do better. Student feedback has been immensely helpful in refining SJSU Plus materials. We’re also sending less email and more messages while students are “in class” online.

Here’s what happened:

We’re still analyzing summer results. As you know, it can take a while to double check the numbers and understand cause and effect. But SJSU and Udacity are encouraged by improvements in student performance across the board. The following chart shows the percentage of students who earned a C or better.

Spring Pilot 2013 Summer Pilot 2013 SJSU On-Campus
(based on past 6 semesters)
Elementary Statistics 50.5% 83.0% 76.3%
College Algebra 25.4% 72.6% 64.7%
Entry Level Math 23.8% 29.8% 45.5%
General Psychology not offered 67.3% 83.0%
Intro to Programming not offered 70.4% 67.6%

(*Represents students who scored a C or better)

The overall retention rate dropped to 60 percent this summer, compared with 83 percent this spring, reflecting SJSU’s decision to be more flexible when students signaled to instructors that they needed to drop the course.

Here are a few things we’d like to clarify:

  • Over the summer, there were many comparisons made between our SJSU Plus and face-to-face courses. What many people failed to realize is this was not an apples-to-apples comparison.
  • On campus, we have students who are well acquainted with the rigor of college-level work. With SJSU Plus, most students are just beginning or resuming their college careers.
  • Also, the SJSU students enrolled in the SJSU Plus math courses this past spring failed the campus-based versions once before. Normally, these students would have been required to return to community college.
  • And that goes right back to our mission of increasing access. A 30 percent pass rate does sound low, until you stop and think that most of these students would not otherwise have had access to the course at all.

Here’s where we see things going in the future.

  • After taking a breather this fall to set the stage for student success in the future, we will resume offering SJSU Plus courses in January 2014. One major question we need to address is how to better sync our courses with our students’ busy schedules.
  • Many students have asked for greater flexibility in pacing, enabling them to speed up or slow down outside the confines of a conventional semester schedule. Customized scheduling is unprecedented at SJSU, but we would like to explore this option.

Spartans at Work: The Tech Museum of Innovation

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with psychology alumna Maryanne Mwangi.)

In the heart of downtown San Jose is an impressive building with orange walls and a dome roof, home of The Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater and part of The Tech Museum of Innovation. The Tech is a distinctive part of the downtown San Jose skyline and a fitting museum for a city whose motto is “the capital of Silicon Valley.”

“Being that we’re in Silicon Valley, we are surrounded by innovators who create or want to create technology that can change the world, so The Tech is moving towards becoming a resource for those innovators and others around the world, ” said Maryanne Mwangi, ’11 Psychology.

As assistant project manager for the exhibits team, Mwangi provides support during the development and creation of the museum’s experiences. She is there every step of the way from brainstorming and initiation to maintaining a schedule, managing a budget and communicating with other teams during the set-up.

Mwangi assisted with the brand-new experience Social Robots, which opened July 1. Visitors have the opportunity to design and build their own working robots. She describes the “a-ha moment” when people connect the different pieces together, and their robots come alive.

“You come into the Social Robots exhibit and you’re provided with the tools and resources to build something amazing,” she said. “While you’re building you are also learning  how data is transferred between inputs and outputs to create an action. The Tech is providing the opportunity to bring out the innovator that’s in all of us and I think that’s amazing!”

User experience is an important priority in both technology and museums, especially for a technology and science museum that is creating more interactive, hands-on experiences like Social Robots. Mwangi’s psychology education gave her a foundation for brainstorming and collaborating with her team on exhibits.

“It’s an understanding of how people will interact with different things and trying to anticipate how someone will utilize  something that is put out on the floor,” she said. “Psychology plays a role in helping to understand people’s emotions and trying to figure out what would make them happy and  motivated to try something.”

New York Times: Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden

Posted by the New York Times April 29, 2013.

By Tamar Lewin

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Dazzled by the potential of free online college classes, educators are now turning to the gritty task of harnessing online materials to meet the toughest challenges in American higher education: giving more students access to college, and helping them graduate on time.

Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States arrive on campus needing remedial work before they can begin regular credit-bearing classes. That early detour can be costly, leading many to drop out, often in heavy debt and with diminished prospects of finding a job.

Meanwhile, shrinking state budgets have taken a heavy toll at public institutions, reducing the number of seats available in classes students must take to graduate. In California alone, higher education cuts have left hundreds of thousands of college students without access to classes they need.

To address both problems and keep students on track to graduation, universities are beginning to experiment with adding the new “massive open online courses,” created to deliver elite college instruction to anyone with an Internet connection, to their offerings.

While the courses, known as MOOCs, have enrolled millions of students around the world, most who enroll never start a single assignment, and very few complete the courses. So to reach students who are not ready for college-level work, or struggling with introductory courses, universities are beginning to add extra supports to the online materials, in hopes of improving success rates.

Here at San Jose State, for example, two pilot programs weave material from the online classes into the instructional mix and allow students to earn credit for them.

“We’re in Silicon Valley, we breathe that entrepreneurial air, so it makes sense that we are the first university to try this,” said Mohammad Qayoumi, the university’s president. “In academia, people are scared to fail, but we know that innovation always comes with the possibility of failure. And if it doesn’t work the first time, we’ll figure out what went wrong and do better.”

In one pilot program, the university is working with Udacity, a company co-founded by a Stanford professor, to see whether round-the-clock online mentors, hired and trained by the company, can help more students make their way through three fully online basic math courses.

The tiny for-credit pilot courses, open to both San Jose State students and local high school and community college students, began in January, so it is too early to draw any conclusions. But early signs are promising, so this summer, Udacity and San Jose State are expanding those classes to 1,000 students, and adding new courses in psychology and computer programming, with tuition of only $150 a course.

San Jose State has already achieved remarkable results with online materials from edX, a nonprofit online provider, in its circuits course, a longstanding hurdle for would-be engineers. Usually, two of every five students earn a grade below C and must retake the course or change career plans. So last spring, Ellen Junn, the provost, visited Anant Agarwal, an M.I.T. professor who taught a free online version of the circuits class, to ask whether San Jose State could become a living lab for his course, the first offering from edX, an online collaboration of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ms. Junn hoped that blending M.I.T.’s online materials with live classroom sessions might help more students succeed. Dr. Agarwal, the president of edX, agreed enthusiastically, and without any formal agreement or exchange of money, he arranged for San Jose State to offer the blended class last fall.

The results were striking: 91 percent of those in the blended section passed, compared with 59 percent in the traditional class.

“We’re engineers, and we check our results, but if this semester is similar, we will not have the traditional version next year,” said Khosrow Ghadiri, who teaches the blended class. “It would be educational malpractice.”

It is hard to say, though, how much the improved results come from the edX online materials, and how much from the shift to classroom sessions focusing on small group projects, rather than lectures.

Finding better ways to move students through the start of college is crucial, said Josh Jarrett, a higher education officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which in the past year has given grants to develop massive open online courses for basic and remedial courses.

“For us, 2012 was all about trying to tilt some of the MOOC attention toward the more novice learner, the low-income and first-generation students,” he said. “And 2013 is about blending MOOCs into college courses where there is additional support, and students can get credit. While some low-income young adults can benefit from what I call the free-range MOOCs, the research suggests that most are going to need more scaffolding, more support.”

Until now, there has been little data on how well the massive online courses work, and for which kinds of students. Blended courses provide valuable research data because outcomes can easily be compared with those from a traditional class. “The results in the San Jose circuits course are probably the most interesting data point in the whole MOOC movement,” Mr. Jarrett said.

Said Dr. Junn, “We want to bring all the hyperbole around MOOCs down to reality, and really see at a granular level that’s never before been available, how well they work for underserved students.”

Online courses are undeniably chipping at the traditional boundaries of higher education. Until now, most of the millions of students who register for them could not earn credit for their work. But that is changing, and not just at San Jose State. The three leading providers, Udacity, EdX and Coursera, are all offering proctored exams, and in some cases, certification for transfer credit through the American Council on Education.

Last month, in a controversial proposal, the president pro tem of the California Senate announced the introduction of legislation allowing students in the state’s public colleges and universities who cannot get a seat in oversubscribed lower-level classes to earn credit for faculty-approved online versions, including those from private vendors like edX and Udacity.

And on Wednesday, San Jose State announced that next fall, it will pay a licensing fee to offer three to five more blended edX courses, probably including Harvard’s “Ancient Greek Heroes” and Berkeley’s”Artificial Intelligence.” And over the summer, it will train 11 other California State campuses to use the blended M.I.T. circuits course.

Dr. Qayoumi favors the blended model for upper-level courses, but fully online courses like Udacity’s for lower-level classes, which could be expanded to serve many more students at low cost. Traditional teaching will be disappearing in five to seven years, he predicts, as more professors come to realize that lectures are not the best route to student engagement, and cash-strapped universities continue to seek cheaper instruction.

“There may still be face-to-face classes, but they would not be in lecture halls,” he said. “And they will have not only course material developed by the instructor, but MOOC materials and labs, and content from public broadcasting or corporate sources. But just as faculty currently decide what textbook to use, they will still have the autonomy to choose what materials to include.”

While San Jose State professors decided what material should be covered in the three Udacity math courses, it was Udacity employees who determined the course look and flow — and, in most cases, appeared on camera.

“We gave them lecture notes and a textbook, and they ‘Udacified’ things, and wrote the script, which we edited,” said Susan McClory, San Jose State’s developmental math coordinator. “We made sure they used our way of finding a common denominator.”

The online mentors work in shifts at Udacity’s offices in nearby Mountain View, Calif., waiting at their laptops for the “bing” that signals a question, and answering immediately.

“We get to hear the ‘aha’ moments, and these all-caps messages ‘THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU,’ ” said Rachel Meltzer, a former clinical research manager at Stanford and mentor who is starting medical school next fall.

The mentors answer about 30 questions a day, like how to type the infinity symbol or add unlike fractions — or, occasionally, whether Ms. Meltzer is interested in a date. The questions appear in a chat box on-screen, but tutoring can move to a whiteboard, or even a live conversation. When many students share confusion, mentors provide feedback to the instructors.

The San Jose State professors were surprised at the speed with which the project came together.

“The first word was in November, and it started in January,” said Ronald Rogers, one of the statistics professors. “Academics usually form a committee for months before anything happens.”

But Udacity’s approach was appealing.

“What attracted us to Udacity was the pedagogy, that they break things into very small segments, then ask students to figure things out, before you’ve told them the answer,” said Dr. Rogers, who spends an hour a day reading comments on the discussion forum for students in the worldwide version of the class.

Results from the pilot for-credit version with the online mentors will not be clear until after the final exams, which will be proctored by webcam.

But one good sign is that, in the pilot statistics course, every student, including a group of high school students from an Oakland charter school, completed the first, unproctored exam.

“We’re approaching this as an empirical question,” Dr. Rogers said. “If the results are good, then we’ll scale it up, which would be very good, given how much unmet demand we have at California public colleges.”

Any wholesale online expansion raises the specter of professors being laid off, turned into glorified teaching assistants or relegated to second-tier status, with only academic stars giving the lectures. Indeed, the faculty unions at all three California higher education systems oppose the legislation requiring credit for MOOCs for students shut out of on-campus classes. The state, they say, should restore state financing for public universities, rather than turning to unaccredited private vendors.

But with so many students lacking access, others say, new alternatives are necessary.

“I’m involved in this not to destroy brick-and-mortar universities, but to increase access for more students,” Dr. Rogers said.

And if short videos and embedded quizzes with instant feedback can improve student outcomes, why should professors go on writing and delivering their own lectures?

“Our ego always runs ahead of us, making us think we can do it better than anyone else in the world,” Dr. Ghadiri said. “But why should we invent the wheel 10,000 times? This is M.I.T., No. 1 school in the nation — why would we not want to use their material?”

There are, he said, two ways of thinking about what the MOOC revolution portends: “One is me, me, me — me comes first. The other is, we are not in this business for ourselves, we are here to educate students.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 30, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the institution from which Rachel Meltzer, a mentor for the online provider Coursera, graduated. It was Washington University in St. Louis, not Stanford (where Ms. Meltzer worked a clinical research manager).

Governor Helps Launch SJSU Plus

Top elected and higher education officials joined Silicon Valley’s leading entrepreneurs at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library on Jan. 15 for the advent of a groundbreaking partnership aimed at bridging public higher education with a promising Silicon Valley startup.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. spoke at the event about the long-term potential for San Jose State Plus before SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi and Udacity Inc. CEO and Co-Founder Sebastian Thrun signed the official agreement.

In his first public appearance at SJSU, recently appointed California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White provided a systemwide perspective on the announcement and online education. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Marc Andreessen attended to lend his support.

SJSU community members joined the media and officials to participate in a rigorous question and answer session including Brown, Qayoumi, Thrun, White and SJSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

Read the full news release about today’s announcement. View a recording of the news conference and join the conversation about #SJSUPlus on Twitter.

 

 

 

SJSU Plus Announcement

SJSU and Udacity Partnership

SJSU Plus Announcement

This marks the first time that a broad and diverse range of students, not just matriculated students, will have access to online college classes for credit from an accredited university at a very affordable price of $150 per course.

San Jose State University and Udacity Announce Partnership to Pilot For-Credit Online Courses to Expand Access to Higher Education

Media contact:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, (408) 656-6999
The OutCast Agency (for Udacity), (415) 392-8282

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University and Silicon Valley-based online education startup Udacity Inc. have reached an agreement to develop a pilot program to be called San Jose State Plus, offering college classes for credit to SJSU and non-SJSU students beginning in January 2013. Registration begins today. View video and photos from a news conference held Jan. 15.

The partnership will combine the knowledge and expertise of SJSU faculty members with Udacity’s cutting-edge online platform and pedagogy to work together toward helping a greater percentage of students excel in their chosen majors. This pilot purposely focuses on two math classes and one statistics class that nearly every student must complete to succeed in college.

“As the public university that sends 8,000 graduates annually into the Silicon Valley workforce, San Jose State University must and will take a leading role in leveraging technology to transform higher ed with the goal of making a college degree affordable and accessible to all,” said SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi.

The passage of Proposition 30 signaled renewed voter support for public higher education in California. But limited public resources, coupled with an ever growing need for college graduates to fuel the state’s tech economy, means educators must seek the most effective means to expand access reflecting the California Master Plan for Higher Education’s commitment to a college education for all who qualify.

Expanding Access

This marks the first time that a broad and diverse range of students, not just matriculated students, will have access to online college classes for credit from an accredited university at a very affordable price of $150 per course, about the same as a course at the California Community Colleges.

The pilot’s target population includes underserved groups such as high school students who will earn college credit, waitlisted students at California Community Colleges who would otherwise face out-of-state or private options, and members of the armed forces and veterans. The National Science Foundation will provide funding to support the assessment of this groundbreaking effort.

“By providing engaging, accessible and affordable classes, we are studying whether this pilot offers a new pathway to credit for students currently shut out of the higher education system,” said Udacity CEO and Co-Founder Sebastian Thrun. “We have always pushed ourselves to improve online learning technology to provide the very best higher education has to offer to students everywhere, including students right here in California. We have much to learn, but are excited by the potential this partnership represents.”

Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra and Elementary Statistics are the three courses to be offered in this pilot. SJSU faculty members working with Udacity designed and created all three classes to include engaging video instruction interspersed with quizzes and other interactive elements, as well as course mentors supporting students throughout the course.

Innovative Faculty

“This pilot is possible because of our extraordinary and dedicated faculty members who care deeply about student learning and success, and their willingness to explore new ways to teach students, especially traditionally underserved students who aspire to college degrees and beyond,” said SJSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

“Serving Silicon Valley, one of the most vibrant centers of innovation in the nation, San Jose State is home to instructors who are innovators, stepping up to team with Udacity,” Provost Junn continued. “Together, we will explore and evaluate, in a systematic way, how we can provide a high-quality, interactive and exemplary online learning experience for all students that is affordable, lends greater access and ensures student success.

The pilot program will address and study a number of pressing questions facing online learning including massive open online courses. Distinctive features include the following:

  • SJSU faculty members will create and teach the courses in coordination with Udacity, and will be the instructors of record throughout the term. SJSU faculty members will carry the sole authority and responsibility for assessing student learning. Each course will be enriched with support provided by Udacity staff members and course mentors, who will track, encourage and monitor students.
  • Three critical entry-level courses with high failure rates were selected for this pilot. Revising these key classes to improve student interest, engagement, motivation and learning should result in multiple positive outcomes for later academic success.
  • In this pilot, student enrollment will be limited to 100 students per course, with 50 SJSU students and 50 non-SJSU students. Priority enrollment will be given to high school students, community college students, members of the armed forces, veterans and waitlisted SJSU students. All students will earn college credit.
  • This pilot will include the formal collection and analysis of student learning data and faculty feedback to assess progress and mastery of course learning objectives and outcomes. Faculty members will be involved in this assessment by an external firm.
  • There will be no textbooks required for any of the courses as the content will be embedded and self-contained online. Faculty members may recommend optional open-source or free textbooks for students who would like additional outside materials.
  • Human mentoring will be available via chat rooms, a helpline, instructor-facilitated peer meetings and outreach when a student is falling behind and needs more encouragement and support.
  • Exams will be proctored online, with no campus visits required. Student identity authentication and compliance with all applicable privacy laws will be ensured and protected. Accessibility and compliance with all applicable laws for students with disabilities will be addressed.

SJSU’s Next Generation Initiative

This effort is part of a campaign led by President Qayoumi, who argues educational institutions urgently need new approaches to teaching and assessing learning that are personalized, collaborative, engaging and that relate to real-world, 21st-century problems. Learn more via the president’s white paper “Reinventing Public Higher Education: A Call to Action.”

“SJSU Plus represents the dawn of a new era in providing high-quality college courses at an affordable price for anyone, anywhere, anytime,” President Qayoumi said. “San Jose State is proud to be a pioneer and trailblazer with Udacity in this important initiative.”

About San Jose State

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,500 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

About Udacity

Udacity is a social venture that seeks to bring accessible, engaging, and effective higher education to the world. We believe that higher education is a basic human right, and we seek to empower our students to develop their skills in order to advance their education and careers.  Udacity has been at the forefront of developing new online pedagogy that bridges education and employable skills with courses in Computer Science, Mathematics, Programming, General Sciences, and Entrepreneurship at www.Udacity.com.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is SJSU Plus and why is SJSU involved in this effort?

SJSU is partnering with Udacity in a groundbreaking online education venture (known as SJSU Plus) to be among the first university to pilot a new form of interactive online courses to formally test if this modality enhances student learning and might improve greater access to higher learning through the use of educational technology. This partnership seeks to provide online, accessible, affordable, engaging, and highly effective courses created by our own SJSU faculty that would be available for credit at a very affordable price for all students, including under-served populations of students. Should this initial pilot of three online, entry-level courses be successful, it also might be part of an innovative solution to address the increasing demand for higher education needs in California, particularly in STEM fields.

Why was Udacity chosen as a partner?

Udacity was an early pioneer in massive open online courses (MOOC) and offers highly-engaging video content mixed with frequent interactive quizzes and a contextual “learn by doing” approach. Their newest approach also integrates more human interaction and connection by utilizing forums and mentors.

Why did Udacity decide to partner with San Jose State University?

Udacity believes that as Silicon Valley’s largest public university, San Jose State University has been particularly progressive in its approach to embracing new ways of teaching. Udacity was excited to collaborate with SJSU as part of a campaign led by President Qayoumi, who argues that higher educational institutions urgently need new approaches to teaching and assessing learning that are personalized, collaborative, engaging and that relate to real-world, 21st-century problems.

Who else is involved in this effort?

There are other external organizations that are interested in this pilot for a variety of reasons.

  • The National Science Foundation, through its Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science program, is funding our pilot to evaluate student outcomes in these pilot classes.
  • The American Council on Education (ACE) will be evaluating these courses, as well as Udacity’s Computer Science 101 course, in order to recommend them for credit among their nearly 2,000 member institutions.
  • Additionally, through a grant from the Gates Foundation, ACE will be conducting research with University of Illinois, Springfield, on what student demographic groups are best served by and benefit from access to open online courses.

Are our faculty members teaching the courses?

Yes, our SJSU faculty members are creating the three pilot courses in coordination with Udacity, and they will be the sole instructor of record throughout the term. SJSU faculty members will carry the sole authority and responsibility for assessing student learning. SJSU professors will lead the development of the course curriculum and instruction. Udacity provides the platform as well as support in developing course elements (e.g., videos, activities, quizzes) and consults on instructional design optimized for the online medium. Each course will be enriched with additional student support provided by Udacity staff members and course mentors, who will track, monitor and encourage students.

How and why were the courses selected? How were faculty selected?

For this pilot, three foundational, bottleneck, entry-level courses, often with high failure rates were selected. By revising these key, gateway classes to improve student interest, engagement, motivation and learning, SJSU hopes to garner multiple positive outcomes for student learning and future academic success.

Once courses were identified, faculty were recruited by working with relevant department chairs, deans and associate deans who solicited faculty interest and willingness to work on developing these innovative online courses.

What are the specific chosen courses?

  1. Developmental Math (Entry-Level Math, Algebra Review) Math 6 Course. Description: This course uses algebra to quantify and describe the world around us by exploring questions like “How many songs can fit onto your flash drive?”, or “What’s a better deal: The family size box of crackers or the regular box of crackers? By the end of the course, students will have stronger skills for modeling problems, analyzing patterns, and using algebra to arrive at conclusions.
  2. College Algebra Math 8 Course. Description: This class illustrates that math is everywhere. Students gain an in-depth understanding of algebraic principles, and learn how to use them to solve problems that they encounter in everyday life. Students learn about functions, polynomials, graphing, complex numbers, exponential and logarithmic equations, and much more, all through exploring real-world scenarios.
  3. Elementary Statistics Stats 95 Course. Description: Students learn how to organize, describe, and interpret data, enabling them to think about the information in a whole new light. The class allows students visualize data, calculate statistics that describe data, and use statistical methods to make decisions.

How many students will be enrolled in SJSU Plus?

In this pilot, student enrollment will be limited to 100 students per course–with 50 SJSU students and 50 non-SJSU students. Priority enrollment will be given to interested and/or waitlisted SJSU students, as well as non-SJSU students, such as high school students, community college students, and members of the armed forces or veterans. All students in our SJSU Plus pilot will earn college credit that would be transferable to our campus or any other accredited campus.

How much will the courses cost for students and what services will be provided?

Each SJSU Plus course will be very affordable and cost $150 for matriculated and non-matriculated students and will be offered this Spring 2013 through SJSU’s College of International and Extended Studies. This is a revised MOOC 2.0 model (as Udacity calls it), where enrolled for-credit students will receive access to SJSU professors, additional support services, proctored and authenticated online exams, and course mentors. These augmented services for students are designed to improve student connections with the professor and strengthen and support students’ learning opportunities. Furthermore, for SJSU students, the cost of these courses through CIES could be covered for eligible students under state (but not federal) financial aid.

For students not interested in college credit, access to the MOOC courses will be open and free as in the original MOOC 1.0 model. Non-credit students will not receive any interaction from professors, nor receive any of the additional student support services, and of course, no college credit.

Is there a revenue share to this agreement?

Yes, after deducting combined SJSU and Udacity development and implementation costs, there is a revenue share agreement. Developing and offering these courses requires investments in a variety of baseline costs, such as course development and technical staff costs, instructor training and support services, as well as online proctoring, authentication and other administrative costs. In our joint collaboration, SJSU and Udacity are partners in sharing revenues after costs.

What are the dates of these courses?

These pilot courses will run during spring semester 2013, from Jan. 30, 2013 to mid-May 2013.

Are there textbooks?

There will be no textbooks required for any of the courses as the content will be embedded and self-contained online. Faculty members may recommend optional open-source or free textbooks for students who would like additional outside materials.

Unlike other Udacity courses, are these classes more schedule-centric? Are there certain deadlines for fulfilling the course requirements?

The courses for credit will follow a similar schedule as those taught on campus. However, since Udacity courses can be taken at home or on the go, students will be able to watch lectures, participate in quizzes, and engage fellow students at any time that is convenient to them throughout the day/night.

Will there be any contact between faculty and students and among students?

Human mentoring will be available via chat rooms, a helpline, professor-facilitated peer meetings and mentor outreach when a student is falling behind and needs more encouragement and support.

How will student identities be verified during exams?

Exams will be proctored online, with no campus visits required. Student identity authentication and compliance with all applicable privacy laws will be ensured and protected. Accessibility and compliance with all applicable laws for students with disabilities will be addressed.

Will there be an assessment of these courses?

Yes, one of the major goals of this pilot is to include the formal collection and statistical analyses of both quantitative and qualitative student learning data, as well as faculty and student feedback to assess student progress and mastery of course learning objectives and outcomes.

Faculty members will conduct their normal assessments and evaluation of student learning for their courses, and they also will be involved in an additional third-party assessment conducted by an external firm and funded by a NSF grant.

Data and resulting reports regarding the outcomes of this pilot will be publicly available, widely disseminated and published whenever possible.

 

SJSU's Best of 2012

Olympian Tops SJSU’s Best of 2012

SJSU's Best of 2012

SJSU’s 2012 Olympian Marti Malloy is welcomed home by her coach, the legendary Yosh Uchida (Christina Olivas photo).

We’ve had an absolutely amazing year, Spartans!

When the time came for us to select the Best of 2012, it was super tough to choose just 10!

We would like to send a huge thanks to everyone who visited all of our online channels, whether it was our news, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or Pinterest pages.

We counted up all your clicks, likes, pins and tweets and SJSU’s 2012 Olympian Marti Malloy came out on top. Read her story and join us on Pinterest to add a comment.

Ripped From the Headlines

Many more of our top stories were ripped right out of the headlines, with students loving the passage of Prop. 30 and the tuition rollback that came along with it.

Our football team making it to the Military Bowl also touched off an avalanche of national media coverage.

Whether led by an enterprising professor or intrepid students, campus research boomed with a $73.3 million NASA grant and a mind-boggling motorcycle with spherical wheels.

We also scored in the U.S. News & World Report College Rankings, coming in ninth overall among the West’s top public universities.

Enriching the Educational Experience

Student life thrived, too. In May, two undergrads and two graduate students from the class of 2012 earned accolades for their outstanding work.

This summer, we welcomed incoming frosh with a super fun orientation program followed this fall by our largest career fair in five years.

We even set the stage for 2013, launching an initiative to roll out a whole bunch of online tools enriching the educational experience here at SJSU.

Stay tuned because things can only get better next year!

"Prepared You For Everything" Department of Psychology Convocation

“Prepared You For Everything” Department of Psychology Convocation

"Prepared You For Everything" Department of Psychology Convocation

Shared memories and classes, whether challenging or rewarding, drew together psychology's 2012 graduates (Christina Olivas photo).

By Sarah Kyo, Web Communications Specialist

(This week, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers took a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we could share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2012. We’ll post more photos on Facebook.)

From Spartans basketball to famous musicians, the Event Center hosts a variety of festivities that bring people together. On May 24, family and friends in the stands cheered for the Department of Psychology. Led by their faculty, the graduates entered the main floor from the home and visiting team entrances, forming two side-by-side lines as they walked down the center aisle to their seats.

In his opening address, psychology department Chair Ronald Rogers said the faculty’s goal was not to fill students’ heads with names, dates and equations.

“We trained you for very little, but we prepared you for everything,” he said.

Rogers drew some knowing laughter from the graduates when he mentioned a statistics and research methods course.

“It wasn’t just abuse,” he quipped.

Student speaker Yvette Szabo shared more inside jokes with the crowd. President of Psi Chi, the International Society in Psychology SJSU Chapter, Szabo said graduating seniors she talked to didn’t want to hear inspirational words at their convocation.

Instead, they reminisced over “no air conditioning” at Dudley Moorhead Hall, “distress at failing neuroscience” and happy hour at nearby Flames Eatery and Bar. Shared memories and classes, whether challenging or rewarding, drew them together.

“We have a background in psychology to prepare us for what’s next,” she said.

Graduates were not the only ones who received cheers and applause. Lecturer Russell Arias encouraged parents, husbands and wives to stand up, as they received recognition from the Spartans that they have supported over the years.

At the end, the master and bachelor degree recipients exited the Event Center together, side by side. They now share another quality: SJSU alumni.

Kevin Jordan and colleagues in flight simulator

SJSU Receives $73.3 Million Award to Participate in NASA Research

Kevin Jordan and colleagues in flight simulator

Kevin Jordan (front) with Tom Prevot (back left) and Vern Battiste (SJSU Research Foundation photo).

Cooperative Agreement Seeks to Enhance Safety and Efficiency of Air and Space Travel

Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-656-6999

SAN JOSE, Calif., — The NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., has selected San Jose State University Research Foundation for a five-year, $73.3 million cooperative agreement to participate in the development of systems for improving the safety and efficiency of air and space travel. NASA scientists, along with SJSU faculty members and graduate students, will collaborate on this effort, funded by the largest federal award in SJSU history. The principal investigator will be Professor of Psychology and of Human Factors and Ergonomics, Kevin Jordan.

“San Jose State University is both proud and grateful to be selected to partner in Human System Integration Research at NASA Ames,” Jordan said.  “We are proud of the many accomplishments during our 26-year collaboration.  We are grateful for the opportunity to build on that collaboration to meet the design challenges of initiatives such as the Next Generation Air Transportation System and the Space Launch System. We are well positioned to face those challenges and we are committed to partnering with Human Systems Integration researchers in advancing NASA missions.”

This cooperative agreement will build upon Jordan’s 26-year association working with NASA to conduct research focusing on human factors in aeronautics and space exploration. A human factor is a physical or cognitive property that is specific to humans and influences functioning of technological systems.  Human Systems Integration Research studies how relationships between humans and machines can be optimized.

Under this cooperative agreement, San Jose State students and employees will work side-by-side with NASA scientists on a range of projects.  Examples include the Next Generation Air Transportation System, which seeks to modernize the nation’s air traffic system by increasing the capacity and safety of U.S. airspace and the Space Launch System, an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle designed to take a crew vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth’s orbit and beyond.

The proposed projects will investigate the integration of unique human capabilities with future flight-deck (cockpit), air-traffic control, and mission planning and scheduling technologies. An important aspect of this award is that it will further SJSU and NASA’s efforts to provide graduate students with academic and professional training.

Dr. Kevin Jordan

In the past year, Jordan has overseen three cooperative agreements with NASA representing more than $10 million in funding and employing 75 researchers, including graduate students working toward degrees in psychology and human factors in ergonomics. Jordan has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in visual perception at San Jose State since 1984. During his career, Jordan has authored proposals resulting in over $125 million in funding to support collaborative research in aerospace human systems integration.

The San Jose State University Research Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation established to enable and promote externally-funded programs that further SJSU’s comprehensive educational mission, impact, and public benefit. Each year hundreds of local, state, and federal agencies, businesses, and other organizations partner with the research foundation to engage SJSU faculty and other university specialists to perform basic and applied research, public service and community projects, consulting, and other specialized educational activities impacting the region, the nation and the world.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 28,000 students and 3,190 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Charlotte Sunseri, Ninian Stein and Dustin Mulvaney bring new scholarship to campus (Robert Bain photo).

New Faculty Share Their Scholarship With Students

Charlotte Sunseri, Ninian Stein and Dustin Mulvaney bring new scholarship to campus (Robert Bain photo).

Charlotte Sunseri, Ninian Stein and Dustin Mulvaney bring new scholarship to campus (Robert Bain photo).

(Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the fall 2011 College of Social Sciences newsletter, “Together: Exploring What Can Be,” Michael Haederle, editorial consultant. )

The four new assistant professors joining the College of Social Sciences faculty this semester bring diverse and ambitious research agendas that underscore the breadth of the college’s academic mission.

Dustin Mulvaney comes to the Environmental Studies department with an interest in renewable energy technologies and their impacts. Altovise Rogers brings to the Psychology faculty her expertise in industrial/organizational psychology. In the Anthropology department, Charlotte Sunseri researches how long-ago Californians interacted with their environment, while Ninian Stein studies old industrial buildings through archaeological lens.

“With our four bright and talented new professors on board, we look forward to an exciting future for CoSS,” Dean Sheila Bienenfeld says. “These scholars are multi-talented, and bring multiple disciplinary perspectives to their work.”

Mulvaney, a New Jersey native, started out in chemical engineering and worked for a chemical company before changing directions and earning his Ph.D. in environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He developed an interest in the politics of regulation and the balance between innovation and risk. “That got me started thinking about the implications of emerging technologies,” he says. “How do we think about balancing innovation against risk?”

A particular interest involves new innovations in photovoltaic manufacturing. Newer, more efficient solar panels use toxic compounds involving dangerous heavy metals like cadmium and selenium, Mulvaney says. But what happens when it comes time to recycle devices made from these substances?

“We might have an e-waste crisis with solar materials,” Mulvaney says. “These are the kinds of things you might want to think about when you’re innovating in this PV space.”

Rogers became interested in industrial/organizational psychology while an undergraduate at Rice University. On her way to earning a Ph.D. from the University of Houston, Rogers consulted for a variety of businesses, including oil and gas companies, which have elaborate training programs in highly complex technical procedures for their newly hired engineers.

“It’s kind of hard-core training,” she explains, explaining that safety is a critical concern in the industry.

These days, her research interests are veering toward the impact of rapidly evolving mobile communications and social networking on the workplace, where employees increasingly mix personal and business activities. “I’d like to know how that shapes culture and attitudes,” she says.

As she takes on a mixed undergraduate/graduate teaching load this semester, Rogers attributes her commitment to academia in part to her family’s influence.
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While studying for her Ph.D. in anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, Sunseri focused on Native Americans in Central California in the centuries before European contact. “I was interested in the subsistence of some of these hunter-gatherer groups that were presumed to be small and mobile,” she says. In fact, there was evidence of sophisticated trade networks in the region.

Her new research interest focuses on the mostly vanished town of Mono Mills in the eastern Sierra Nevadas.

“I’m interested in how they created community from these different backgrounds,” says Sunseri.

She hopes that uncovering material culture will shed light on how people in Mono Mills lived. “It can tell us such a different story and give us such a different picture of day-to-day life,” she says.

Stein shares Sunseri’s interest in archaeology and has co-led a dig at a Colonial-era site in Rhode Island, but in recent years she has focused on the untold stories of old New England factories and warehouses.

Stein studied anthropology and environmental studies at Brown University, earned master’s degrees at Harvard (anthropology) and Yale (environmental science) and completed her Ph.D. in anthropology-archaeology at Brown in 2007.

Stein fell in love with archaeology as a child. As her interests matured, she became interested in “understanding how humans related to their environments over time, how they impacted their environments and how they’ve been impacted by their environments.”

Stein is casting an eye around San José for older industrial structures. “I’m on the hunt now for a good site, particularly one where the future is uncertain,” she says. “I’m interested in a site close to campus.”

SJSU in the News: Psychology Professor Takes the Stage for San Jose Rep’s Insight Night

Pizarro: There’s nothing spooky about the San Jose Rep’s insightful discussions

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News Aug. 30, 2011.

By Sal Pizarro

The play’s the thing, as they say, but theatergoers would benefit from attending the San Jose Rep’s Insight Night discussion.

The people behind the Rep’s upcoming show talk about the creative process and field questions from the audience during the free, hourlong sessions.

About 250 people came Monday night to hear the background of “Spring Awakening.” The talk was led by Director of Outreach Karen Altree Piemme and included Artistic Director Rick Lombardo; Sonya Tayeh, making her debut as a theater choreographer; actress Eryn Murman; and San Jose State psychology professor Bob Cooper, who talked about the musical’s themes of adolescent turmoil.

The discussions aren’t anything new to the Rep, but they used to be called Ghostlight Forums. Nick Nichols, the Rep’s managing director, told me the name was changed because the theater term “ghostlight” was unfamiliar to general audiences.

“Rick and I decided that what we’re sharing is ‘insight,’ so we went with that,” he said.

Just so you know, a “ghostlight” is a bare bulb left burning onstage in a darkened theater. The reasons for the practice vary from keeping people from bumping into sets or falling into the orchestra pit to soothing the spirits inhabiting the theater. It was a clever term to attach to the discussions, which take place on Monday when theaters are traditionally closed.

“Spring Awakening” starts previews Thursday, with opening night Sept. 7. The next Insight Night is Oct. 10 for “The Last Romance.” Get details at www.sjrep.com.

Contact Sal Pizarro at spizarro@mercurynews.com or 408-627-0940. Follow him at www.facebook.com/mercurynews.aroundtown and www.twitter.com/spizarro.