Dear Commons Community,
The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the University of California at San Jose is giving itself a “breather” from MOOCs after two semesters of experimentation. Ellen Junn, provost of San Jose State, described the break as temporary. The university has not suspended its partnership with Udacity, she said, and the university and the company will probably create new courses together by next spring.
“This is a natural breather time, that’s all we’re doing,” she said.
News of the break coincided with the leaking of a slide show containing preliminary data on the spring trials, which included three mathematics courses that San Jose State instructors built with Udacity. The courses were offered to a mix of students, some who were enrolled at the university and others who were not, including some high-school students.
The pass rates for the San Jose State students in those courses ranged from 29 percent to 51 percent. For non-enrolled students, the range was 12 percent to 45 percent.”
Asked whether it was the preliminary findings from the spring trials that had prompted the university to take a “breather” from its experiments with Udacity, Ms. Junn said that the early data “did not necessarily cause this to happen” and that no planned courses had been canceled. She said she does not recall when the decision to put the trials on hold was made, only that “it was a joint decision” with Udacity and that many factors went into it.
Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, said the company was merely taking time to restructure its courses with San Jose State so that students could work through the material more at their own pace. “The No. 1 complaint we’re getting is that students need more time, they feel rushed,” said Mr. Thrun. “We never made the decision to stop” the pilot entirely, he added.
San Jose State has been ground zero for several projects aimed at testing how MOOCs—or, more precisely, technology developed by MOOC providers—might help traditional universities improve their online courses while lowering the cost to students. In a separate pilot, the university has pushed its instructors to use content and technology from edX, a nonprofit MOOC provider, in their courses, an experiment that has garnered both promising data and skepticism from faculty members.”
The Chronicle concluded its article as:
“…data from the spring trials can serve as a useful reminder that the outside providers cannot provide a miracle cure for the problems facing public higher education in California, said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association.
“The problem is all the hype,” she said. “I think what these data do is bring us down to earth.”
Bring us down to earth indeed. MOOCs are not silver bullets by any means. They have been hyped by their providers, investors, politicians and the media looking for quick fixes.