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San Jose State U. Suspends Udacity MOOC Project

University's pioneering experiments with massive open online courses seem to be showing best results for blended learning, rather than replacing campus courses with MOOCs.

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With the suspension of a partnership with Udacity, San Jose State University's pioneering experiments with massive open online courses seem to be showing best results for blended learning, rather than replacing campus courses with MOOCs.

The university has decided to "pause" the use of Udacity for remedial courses, rather than continuing it in the fall, reports Inside Higher Ed. San Jose State provost Ellen Junn said because of disappointing initial results she wants to take time to review the program with faculty before resuming work with Udacity in the spring of 2014, according to the report.

In January, San Jose State announced plans to offer three online math courses in the spring semester through the Udacity platform, which students could take for just $150 each and receive credit for if completed. However, pass rates for the courses turned out to be worse than for students who took the comparable courses on campus. Part of the problem might be that the courses were produced in a hurry, following the January announcement.

Meanwhile, San Jose State continues to report encouraging results from its work with edX. Although the edX partnership prompted a faculty backlash, it is a supplement rather than a replacement for classroom work. In classes where students viewed edX video lectures prior to coming to class, student performance improved. A paper on those results is in the works. San Jose State's edX work has spurred California's embrace of blended classes as an alternative way of delivering education.

Junn told Inside Higher Ed that the two experiences are hard to compare because the students participating in the blended learning study with edX tended to be more successful students to begin with. The partnership with Udacity, in contrast, was targeted at remedial students and students who had previously failed the same course on campus. The Udacity classes also attracted students who were not otherwise enrolled at the university, including high school students and members of the military. "We stacked the deck against ourselves," Junn told Inside Higher Ed.

Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+, along with @IWKEducation.

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David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
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7/22/2013 | 10:02:33 PM
re: San Jose State U. Suspends Udacity MOOC Project
I found the answer by accident while trying out the Udacity statistics course, which happens to be one of the ones they did in partnership with San Jose state. At the end of the first lecture, they explain where to find the schedule in the course wiki, only for San Jose state students. So it is spelled out for them. What they don't seem to have is as much automation around things like email reminders - Coursera is better at reminding you that a new week's worse of lessons have been posted because they have more weekly schedule structure built into their online course format. With Udacity, it seems to be more the exception to the rule.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/19/2013 | 2:08:04 PM
re: San Jose State U. Suspends Udacity MOOC Project
I should check, but I believe in this case they did impose more structure, using the Udacity platform but tailoring it to their needs. It certainly could be the case that the Udacity software was not as geared toward enforcing deadlines and that hurt them.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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7/18/2013 | 11:30:35 PM
re: San Jose State U. Suspends Udacity MOOC Project
I wonder whether Udacity's work-at-your-own-pace framework had anything to do with students underperforming. Personally, I prefer it, but having also taken a Coursera course that imposed specific weekly deadlines for assignments, I can imagine the absence of deadlines might fail to motivate students sufficiently. Did Udacity's partnership with San Jose State University require students to meet regular deadlines?
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/18/2013 | 4:11:48 PM
re: San Jose State U. Suspends Udacity MOOC Project
Udacity just sent over this statement:

GǣWhile the pilot gave many students the opportunity
they would not have otherwise had to earn college credit and move closer to
their academic goals, we will be pausing enrollment in SJSU+ until the spring
in order to work with SJSU on improving the student experience,Gǥ the company
said in a statement. GǣIn the meantime, SJSU MOOC courses will continue to
remain available and we encourage students to avail themselves of this learning
opportunity offered by SJSU.Gǥ
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