Friday, July 19, 2013

They're Looking At The Wrong Thing

Let's get right into our story:
In January, San Jose State University made a big announcement: It had reached a deal with the startup Udacity to offer college classes for credit online, for a modest fee, not only to its own students but to anyone who wanted to take them. The move was touted as a major step in online learning’s Clay Christensen-approved march toward the ultimate disruption of higher education.

It seems, however, that there are a few more kinks to work out before we all toss out the books and the buildings for good. Inside Higher Ed reported on Thursday that San Jose State is suspending the Udacity partnership just six months after it launched. The problem: More than half the students in the first batch of online courses failed their final exams.
If you're concerned about the quality of education, and about high standards, a high failure rate isn't a priori a bad thing; what you really want to know is to what standard was the course taught, how were the students assessed, and are the assessment results a valid representation of what the students learned.  None of that was mentioned in this story, only the failure rate was--which leads me to wonder if San Jose State is dropping this partnership for no other reason than it made them look bad.


maxutils said...

Couldn't agree more ... I once had a class of 22 Alg 1 students, and I wound up giving 11 Ds and 11 Fs ... and every one was deserved.

Jean said...

I wouldn't know why they dropped it, but it might be worth mentioning that SJSU has been doing distance learning for a long time.

When I was in grad school there in 97-99, they were just starting with classes that met in two or three locations and had a video feed, and classes that met online for the most part but had a few in-person meetings during the semester.

The grad program I was in then is now completely online and serves all of CA, as far as I can tell from hearsay. You don't have to go to campus anymore at all.

So, that's a data point for you.

Rhymes With Right said...

I teach an online American government course for a school that prepares paralegals. My current class started with 18 students, and as i entered the final week of the course I had 7 As, 2 Bs, 2 Cs and 7 Fs (we don't do Ds) -- an inverted bell curve!

Why the Fs? One woman never bothered to participate in class, never participated in the discussion boards, missed half the tests and didn't turn in the research paper. One is a weak student who struggles with tests. One was hospitalized twice during the class. One had an immediate family member suffer a heart attack and then, while in ICU, a stroke, and has been dealing with that matter. One suffered from her own medical issues. The final three all had financial issues that resulted in them having their internet turned off for failure to pay their bills.

Now look at those reasons -- how many of them have anything to do with my standards or how I teach the course? I've tried to throw out a lifeline to these women (the class is 17 women and 1 man), but I'm not at all sure that I'm going to get those research papers and tests/retests by Monday's deadline.

Darren said...

I'm getting my master's degree by distance learning from the University of Idaho. It takes much more effort and discipline to get a degree this way than it does to go to an actual classroom.