University establishes flipped learning training center for faculty

Students in SJSU’s blended learning pilot program had a high completion rate.

San Jose State University, known as the public university serving Silicon Valley, will be home to a program that will train faculty members from across California in how to administer a blended course using a massive open online course (MOOC) platform.

SJSU, which last fall became the first institution to test incorporating edX’s online content into a campus-based course for credit, announced April 10 that the university would open a Center for Excellence in Adaptive and Blended Learning for educators from across the state interested in offering edX’s electrical engineering course next academic year.

The public announcement included details on an expansion of SJSU’s edX pilot program that will make the edX engineering class available to as many as 11 of the 23 California State University system schools, reaching thousands of students across the state.

edX is a nonprofit online learning platform established in 2009 by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to provide high-quality education for free to students around the world. edX President Anant Agarwal said the nonprofit would charge a licensing fee for use of their web-based learning platform, but that “hopefully it will be a net win for everybody” while reducing college costs.

The campus’s MOOC-centric training center will show faculty members in the CSU system how to conduct a “flipped” or blended course in which students watch online lectures and take quizzes outside of class while receiving assistance from professors and teachers’ assistants in class.

San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi said the effort to expand the use of edX in California colleges and universities was in part driven by the completion rate in the pilot program’s blended classes. Nine in 10 students completed that class, Qayoumi said, while just six in 10 students completed the traditional engineering course.

“We’re definitely experiencing a breakthrough in this area,” he said. “I believe the future of public universities rests in our ability to adapt …  and collaborate. … Our students brimming with such potential and drive deserve nothing less.”

Agarwal said he was encouraged by SJSU’s willingness to expand the use of edX courses, adding that he sees the acceptance of blended learning only the second major shift in education since the advent of the printing press five centuries ago. The other shift? Agarwal said it was the chalkboard.

“We’re placing the instructor front and foremost, rather than facing the blackboard [with back to students],” he said. “The real value is in helping students learn and helping students process information. [Students] need to learn how to learn. That’s what professors should be teaching students, not just spouting content.”

California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsome said at SJSU’s press conference that adapting to technologically savvy students would be essential for universities that hope to speed up degree completion while keeping costs under control.

“These folks are wired differently. These digital natives cannot be educated like we were educated,” Newsome said. “The old system has run its course, like the industrial age has run its course.”

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