The online course partnership between San Jose State University and Udacity hit a bump when pass rates of 23.8% to 50/5% from classes offered in the spring were posted for the first three courses. The program, called SJSU Plus, was put on hiatus through the fall so the university could evaluate the project.
The next set of results for courses offered in the summer session were much better with more than two-thirds of the 1,380 students who completed the online courses received passing grades of C or higher. In addition, students in three of the offered courses posted higher pass rates than their on-campus counterparts when compared to an average of the last six semesters.
The pass rate for college algebra rose from 25.4% in the spring of 2013 to 72.6% in the summer, while elementary statistics went from 50.5% to 72.6%. Entry-level math saw an increase in pass rates but still lagged far behind the other courses, going from a 23.8% pass rate in the spring to 29.8% in the summer.
“To all those people who declared our experiment a failure, you have to understand how innovation works,” wrote Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun in a blog post. “Few ideas work on the first try. Iteration is key to innovation. We are seeing significant improvement outcomes and student engagement. And we know from our data that there is much more to be done.”
The number of at-risk students taking SUSJ Plus courses in the spring is one factor school officials point to as a possible reason for the low pass rates. Officials also suggest that a more diverse student enrollment in the summer, when 71% of the students were from outside the state of California, may be part of the reason for a higher pass rate.
SJSU and Udacity also made improvements to the pilots between sessions and added more tools to gauge student performance. However, the SJSU Plus will remain on hold through the fall.
“There is no disruption,” SJSU Provost Ellen Junn wrote in a statement. “The main reason is we wanted to take time to review all the data, to debrief with the faculty, to make sure that we’re following all the procedures on campus and just taking due diligence.”