MOOCs at San Jose State University: An Insider’s View!

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week I posted on The Chronicle of Higher Education article on the state of MOOCs at San Jose State University in California.  The article entitled, San Jose State U. Puts MOOC Project With Udacity on Hold, essentially raised several critical questions regarding its implementation at this mainstream public university.

Cathy  Chiel, Associate Vice President and Senior Academic Technology Officer and a colleague of mind from the Sloan Consortium, in an email, commented on the article.  I asked her if it would be okay to post her email to my blog and she graciously agreed.  She makes several comments from someone on the inside of the MOOC implementation at San Jose.  I am sure readers following MOOC developments will find her insights most interesting.

Email from Catheryn L. Cheal to Sloan Board of Directors dated July 20, 2013
Hi all,
Unfortunately, everything you’ll read in the media about the MOOCs at
San Jose is vastly simplified and overly pessimistic. We created
courses with MOOC materials, but they aren’t as massive or freely open
as MOOCs. The usual media life cycle of overly-hyping an innovation
and then turning on it is now in play. It happened with online courses
in the early 2000s, then with Second Life, and now with MOOCs. This
will blow over too and the type of online materials possible in a MOOC
will continue to evolve as one more online option for online
The math MOOC course, which had the lowest passing rates, had an SJSU
student population of those who had previously failed remedial math,
and the MOOC course was a second chance, when they usually don’t get a
second chance. So those 20% who passed were retained at SJSU when
otherwise they would have had to move to a community college. In
addition a high school population had been signed up, but those
students didn’t have computers at home and we learned about that some
2 or 3 weeks into the course. We worked with the high school to open
it’s lab for them in the afternoons. In other words, these courses
didn’t have the typical SJSU student population.
Passing rates, though, are always something to work on and the summer
courses have made some changes that are looking to help, such as an
Orientation week, grading on a more granular level (as should be done
in all online courses) and numerous faculty/student chat sessions
about the material. We won’t have those numbers until the end of the
summer. We were planning to give faculty extra time in the fall to
study the video-tutorials and work on edits and then teach the MOOCs
again in the spring. The tutorials are as detailed as textbooks, so
the sequencing and detail needs to be reviewed for flow.
There are problems on the business side of things that really need to
be worked out, such as enrollment, billing, pre-reqs, data exchange,
etc for a smoother process, as well. At any rate, what I’m reading
about our courses has more to do with the nature of media than the
nature of MOOCs.
Catheryn L. Cheal, Ph.D., Associate Vice President and Senior Academic Technology Officer, San Jose State University

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