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