SJSU and Udacity Partnership: The Future of Higher Education?

SJSU and Udacity Partnership: The Future of Higher Education?
  • Opening Intro -

    "Everyone complains about the cost of higher education, but no one is doing anything about it."


If you believe this statement, then you do not have your pulse on the changes we’ve been seeing in recent years to contain these costs. Rented textbooks. Federal Pell grants. Loan forgiveness programs. And a host of other ways that college students can reduce their financial burden.

Pilot Program

This week, San Jose State University teamed up with Udacity, announcing an unusual partnership that may set the pattern for lowering college costs further. The California university and the Silicon Valley online education enterprise have a launched a pilot program that begins this month. That program is called “San Jose State Plus,” one where college classes for credit are offered for credit and at a heavily discounted rate.

Indeed, the first classes will cost $150 per course or in line with what community college students in the Golden State pay for their classes. That amount is hundreds of dollars less than what SJSU regularly charges for a a course, putting advanced education in the affordability range for more students.

Target Students

SJSU says that the program is being targeted to serve a specific population of students that are underserved or missed by the university including members of the armed forces, military veterans, wait-listed community college students and high school students desiring to complete college credit. Funding for the pilot program comes from the National Science Foundation.

“By providing engaging, accessible and affordable classes, we are studying whether this pilot offers a new pathway to credit for students currently shut out of the higher education system,” said Udacity CEO and Co-Founder Sebastian Thrun. “We have always pushed ourselves to improve online learning technology to provide the very best higher education has to offer to students everywhere, including students right here in California. We have much to learn, but are excited by the potential this partnership represents.”

Three Courses

Initially, three courses will be offered: Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra and Elementary Statistics. SJSU and Udacity co-developed the three classes to include interactive elements such as video instruction. Course mentors will be available to help students as they navigate their way through each class.

SJSU professors and faculty will be the instructors of record for each of the pilot program courses. Student learning outcomes are the responsibility solely of the instructors with course mentors and Udacity staff members lending support as needed. The three courses were selected for their disproportionately high failure rate and were redesigned to ensure improved positive outcomes.

100 Students

No more than 100 college students will be enrolled for each class. The agreement limits that enrollment to 50 SJSU students and 50 non-students. Priority will be given to the targeted group mentioned earlier; every student that successfully completes a class will receive college credit.

Another cost of higher education that an often impact student budgets are textbooks. The courses offered will dispense of this requirement, with students relying solely on embedded material used online. Open source and free textbooks recommended by the instructors may also be used.

Class Oversight

Oversight of each course will be done through human monitoring and mentoring. Chat rooms, a helpline and peer meetings facilitated by faculty members will be available. If a student is seen falling behind in a course, the program will step up direct outreach to the student. Exams will be proctored online; students will not need to set foot on campus.

“SJSU Plus represents the dawn of a new era in providing high-quality college courses at an affordable price for anyone, anywhere, anytime,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said. “San Jose State is proud to be a pioneer and trailblazer with Udacity in this important initiative.”

A New Model?

If the SJSU-Udacity pilot program succeeds, likely we will see this model spread to other colleges and universities across the United States of America, indeed the world. Online education is certainly not something that is new, but when a public university and a private business team up, the possibilities for online higher education to scale and at a lower cost to all is a very appealing one at that.

See AlsoHarvard, MIT Team Up to Offer Online Courses for Free


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Categories: Campus News