January 27, 2022

MOOCs: San Jose State University Suspends Project With Udacity (Roundup)

From the AP (via SF Chronicle):

Five online classes that were announced with great fanfare by the governor at San Jose State University were suspended Thursday after more than half of the students failed the final exams.

“The plan right now is to pause for one semester, there are a couple of different areas we need to work on,” school spokeswoman Patricia Harris said about the courses offered in conjunction with Udacity Inc.


The failure rate on final exams for the San Jose State courses involving Udacity ranged from 56 to 76 percent, said Sebastian Thrun, a researcher at Stanford University and Google Inc. who launched Udacity.

Despite the high failure rate, Thrun said valuable data and experience were gained from the effort, which will help improve future classes.

From the Mercury News:

The students struggled to pass their final exam, and some said they would have done better if they had more time to prepare for it — an adjustment that might be made, said Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun.

But Junn and [San Jose State Provost Ellen] Thrun both said the passing rates should not be compared to typical college courses, as some of the students weren’t yet in college, and others had struggled in the subject. Remedial courses at community colleges typically have passing rates of 10 percent or less, Junn said.

On a more promising note, 83 percent of the students completed the courses, which Thrun said was “great news.”

From GigaOm:

In better news for MOOCs, San Jose State gives high marks to its partnership with edX. According to Inside Higher Ed, students enrolled in classes using edX materials are actually outperforming students in non-edX-supported classes. But while Udacity courses were built to replace the traditional classroom experience, edX courses are meant to supplement them.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Udacity courses, offered in math and statistics, were different because of their emphasis on online-only learning. Students had an instructor and were still expected to keep up with the pace of a traditional course, but didn’t have the advantage of a regular physical class to attend.

Moreover, San Jose State and Udacity focused their trial classes on unusually needy students: 20% were high school students, 62% of students in the pilot were not regular San Jose students, and all of the matriculated ones had failed a remedial math class before. (Among the regular, so-called matriculated students who had previously failed, 29% passed the Udacity course.)

From Inside Higher Ed:

Junn wants to spend the fall going over the results and talking with faculty members about the university’s online experimentation, which extends beyond the Udacity partnership and has proved somewhat controversial. She said the plan is to start working with Udacity again in spring 2014.

San Jose State is one of Udacity’s few university partners, though the company recently signed a major deal with the Georgia Institute of Technology to eventually offer a low-cost online master’s degree to 10,000 students at once.

See Also: Sebastian Thrun on the Future of Learning (via MIT Technology Review)

See Also: San Jose State University and Udacity Announce Partnership to Pilot For-Credit Online Courses to Expand Access to Higher Education (via Udacity, Jan. 15, 2013)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.