Perils of online college learning

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Let it not be said that San Jose State University hasn’t taught the world a valuable lesson in the promises and pitfalls of the fancy new craze for online university learning.

The Cal State University campus set itself up as a pioneer in the field in January, when it announced plans to enroll up to 300 students in three introductory online courses; the fee would be $150, a deep discount from the usual cost of more than $2,000.

A few weeks ago the results of the experiment came in. More than half the students flunked. San Jose’s work with Udacity, the well-funded Silicon Valley start-up that set up the online program, will be suspended for the fall semester — put on “pause,” as the partners say — so the courses can be retooled.

“We want to reduce the hype and take a scientific look at the results,” San Jose State’s provost, Ellen Junn, told me.

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