California Gov. Jerry Brown helped usher in a new San Jose State University program on Tuesday where campus officials announced a partnership with a Silicon Valley company to offer online classes for credit.
"We've got to invest in our students and in California," Brown said, adding that "we do that by changing."
University officials said Tuesday that the pilot program with three classes will be available to San Jose State and non-San Jose State students starting this month. Registration starts Tuesday.
SJSU spokeswoman Pat Lopes Harris said it will be the first time that a broad and diverse range of students, not just matriculated students, will have access to online college classes for credit from an accredited university at a price of $150 per course.
"We have a built-in audience," Harris said. "We're offering courses that students are required to pass within their first year, but which many students take over and over. We think this is the best way to increase students' graduation rate."
The entry-level mathematics, college algebra and elementary statistics classes will have 100 students each. The university is partnering with Udacity Inc., of Palo Alto, which offers online courses.
These courses are known by the acronym MOOC, for massive open online courses.
Harris said the pilot's target population includes underserved groups such as high school students who will earn college credit, waitlisted students at California community colleges who would otherwise face out-of-state or private options, and members of the armed forces and veterans. The National Science Foundation will provide funding to support the assessment of this groundbreaking effort.
Iris Garcia, a SJSU junior in speech pathology, said if she'd been able to take some of the remedial classes she took her freshman year online, she would probably be a year closer to graduation.
"I could have been taking classes toward my degree," she said, "instead of the math and statistics required that a lot if students test out of."
Some aspects of this pilot include:
- There will be no textbooks required for any of the courses as the content will be embedded and self-contained online. Faculty members may recommend optional open-source or free textbooks for students who would like additional outside materials.
- Human mentoring will be available via chat rooms, a helpline, instructor-facilitated peer meetings and outreach when a student is falling behind and needs more encouragement and support.
- Exams will be proctored online, with no campus visits required.