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San Jose State University Report on Udacity

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Mark Van Selst & Judith Lessow-Hurly (San Jose State University)

The SJSU-Udacity partnership is an attempt to develop and demonstrate the effectiveness of a high quality online course experience. The partnership is jointly funded by SJSU and a National Science Foundation Grant with other sources of additional support also being pursued.

There are currently three courses in development, to be offered starting with the Spring 2013 semester: Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra and Elementary Statistics. SJSU faculty members were responsible for course design utilizing an “upside-down” curriculum model, and worked with Udacity in the creation of the visual content and other interactive elements. Course mentors will support students as they are taking the course.

The initial pilot will include 50 SJSU students and 50 non-SJSU students in each of the three courses; non-SJSU students may include veterans, wait-listed community college students, and high school students seeking college credit.

Questions have been raised about whether the role of faculty in determining and delivering the curriculum, and in assessing student outcomes, are or were violated in the design of the courses. The courses are all existing SJSU courses, instructors retain intellectual property rights to solely created content, instructors are solely responsible for assessment of student learning, and jointly created content requires both parties to agree to any other external use of the material. Instructors were paid a stipend of $15,000 for course development and received substantial professional development and technical support. Both the Chancellor’s Office and CFA have been involved in vetting the characteristics of this pilot.

It is likely that the SJSU/Udacity partnership is of interest to CSU faculty as a whole because of the assessment elements intentionally included in the pilot. We note that the very expensive costs of the pilot course development were underwritten and that the $150 per course fee does not reflect the “real” cost of education.

It's worth noting that these classes are not MOOCs, and are deliberately structured to maintain a personalized learning environment with a special view to meeting the needs of our (SJSU) student body. While on-line instruction is not new, what makes this partnership exciting is that if successful, it will create opportunities for a wide range of students to have access to for-credit courses from an accredited university with strong academic credentials via an on-line offering at a very affordable rate.

Additional information can be found at:


For more information on the SJSU-Udacity project, contact Mark Van Selst or Judith Lessow Hurley.