Advocates believe online education opens the door for students who may not have the time or financial wherewithal needed to succeed in a traditional university or college classroom. While the potential remains, a small pilot offered by San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, showed there are also hidden costs.
The program, started last January, offered three remedial and entry-level math courses through online startup Udacity, available for $150 per student. The classes were open to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection, but each class was capped at 100 students.
The prep school Oakland Military Institute (OMI) had nearly 45 students participating in the program, but school officials had to devote computer lab space, time, and equipment to students who didn’t have the necessary Internet access at home. Laptops were provided, along with two staff members to answer questions and keep students on task.
“Without having a class period to do it, I wouldn’t have done as well,” said OMI student Ciara Lowry.