Udacity says pass rates rising in SJSU MOOC experiment


When San Jose State University partnered with massive open online course provider Udacity to provide low cost MOOCs for credit, it was heralded as a “game changer” by California’s governor.

udacity-thrun
Sebastian Thrun

One semester later, the initiative was suddenly “paused” after as much as 75 percent of students were failing some of the courses. Now, SJSU Plus, as the program is called, is making an apparent comeback less than two months after it stalled.

Pass rates for the courses sharply increased during the summer semester’s attempt, Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun announced in a blog post, with some rates even surpassing those of their on-campus counterparts.

“To all those people who declared our experiment a failure, you have to understand how innovation works,” Thrun said. “Few ideas work on the first try. Iteration is key to innovation.”

In SJSU Plus’ elementary statistics course, the pass rate rose from 50.5 percent to 83 percent.

The college algebra course saw its percentage of students who passed jump from a quarter to nearly three quarters. The entry level math course improved the least, with a pass rate of 29.9 percent up from the spring’s 23.8.

Two new Udacity courses were offered in the summer. A general psychology course had a pass rate of 67.3 percent and an intro to programming course had a success rate of 70.4 percent. 2,091 students enrolled in the courses.

See Page 2 for what changes Udacity and San Jose State University made to SJSU Plus this time around.

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