Working out the online (educational) kinks

I wrote yesterday about exciting educational reform in India and the UK (Grannies in the Cloud).  Recent news from San Jose State University make it clear that online education is still a work in progress.

Earlier this year, SJSU teamed up with Udacity to offer remedial math and stats courses to anyone could paid $150.  They have since suspended the experiment after the fail rates were off the charts.  About 85% of the students that signed up actually completed the class, which is a high number, but the pass rates only ranged from 20-44%.  Apparently about 75% usually pass the same courses in a non-online setting.

Forbes has a good article detailing some of the reasons that the program might not have worked so well. Ironically, the title of the piece is “Failing Fast,” which I assumed to be (cruelly) referring to the students who failed the course but actually refers to Udacity.

I’m glad that the university is going to work with Udacity to rethink the program and try again in 2014.  A lot of the trouble with the courses seemed to stem from the fact that they were put together in a rush without adequate thought and preparation.

Latin America’s first MOOC

São Paulo University (USP) has teamed up with a start-up company named Veduca to launch two MOOCs, one in physics and the other in statistics.

This article notes that Brazilian students are some of the most “engaged” participants in US based MOOCs, but are hindered by the fact that the classes are taught in English (by the way, I don’t know what the author means by engaged or how this is measured).  These new classes will be taught in Portuguese by USP professors and will give students the opportunity to participate in live chats, watch videos, and take quizzes throughout to gauge their understanding.

One potential drawback I see is that students can only receive a certificate from Veduca confirming they passed the course if they travel to São Paulo to take the final exam.  I’m sure that will cut down on cheating and enhance the credibility of the certificate (they hope that private universities will accept it for credit in the future), but it seemingly will cut down on the number of international students who will want to enroll. Perhaps that already will be low though given the language of instruction.