The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Testing Ways to Make MOOCs Work

The state of California is taking a look at how massive open online courses (MOOCs) can provide credit for students and revenue for its institutions. A deal between San Jose State University and Udacity to test courses for credit and a fee comes at a the same time the community college system is exploring how MOOCs can help the hundreds of thousands of students who have been unable to enroll because of cuts in government funding.

At San Jose State, a pilot program has been created for three entry-level courses—math, elementary statistics, and college algebra—that allows students to take the Udacity online course and earn academic credit. The cost is $150 per student with the pilot limiting enrollment to 100 students per course. It’s hoped the program can help students succeed in remedial courses that often have long waiting lists and high failure rates.

The courses are designed by SJSU professors and use the Udacity online platform. The MOOCs will include videos that let students work at their own pace, while mentors will be available for student sessions, according to a report in eCampus News.

“This could be not the solution, but the key part of the solution,” said Gov. Jerry Brown at a press conference. “We know that, because of the billions we’re spending on schools, we have the right to better results.”

The community college effort includes “challenge exams” that allow students to prove they can pass for credit. The MOOCs would prepare students for the exams and providers could modify the course to the exam.

While some community college faculty members have voiced concerns about the initiative, the Academic Senate, which represents community college instructors, is so far satisfied with the system’s approach.

“We have a good dialogue with the chancellor’s office,” said Michelle Pilati, president of the Academic Senate and professor of psychology at Rio Hondo College. “As far as we know, there is nothing moving forward that we would take issue with.”

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