Rebooting online education

The disappointing results from San Jose State’s experiment with online courses shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that such courses can’t help students, the Los Angeles Times reports. But the classes the university offered in collaboration with online provider Udacity were practically a model of how to do online education badly: rushed into existence and sloppily overseen. No one was even aware that some students who had signed up for the classes lacked reliable access to computers. The one thing the college did well was monitor the results of the three pilot courses and call a timeout when failure rates proved unacceptably high. It’s hard to draw conclusions about one of the three courses because it enrolled a mix of students from varied backgrounds, while the comparable classes held on campus enrolled regular San Jose State students. But that wasn’t the case for the other two courses, and overall, the results of this much-ballyhooed venture were startlingly bad: At least 74 percent of students passed the campus-based courses, while no more than 51 percent passed any of the Udacity courses.

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