SJSU sees strong results from bringing MOOCs into the classroom

San Jose State University (SJSU) this week announced that it will become a hub in Cal State system for introduction of third-party online education (often referred to as Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs) into existing courses.

This follows the success of introducing online education provided by MIT into an engineering course. As Information Week states:

“SJSU ran three sections of its introductory electrical engineering course; two were normal lecture courses, one was blended. San Jose State’s president, Mohammad Quayoumi, said the blended class achieved a 91% pass rate vs. 59% for the traditional classes.”

The course in question is MIT 6.002x. As with most MOOC courses, it comes complete with a promotional video selling the benefits of attending:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, SF Appeal notes there is strong interest from other schools in the system:

"Electrical engineering departments at 11 other CSU campuses are interested in having their faculty teach edX’s circuits classes in fall 2013 and are sending representatives to SJSU to learn about it this summer."

In addition to the strong performance, another cited advantage is the ability for schools to educate the same number of students in the face of education budget cuts. In this blended model, faculty have to do little preparation in order to adopt the MOOC into their course. Instruction, questions and grading is all handled via the MOOC.

One thing I find interesting is that whilst much of the discussion around MOOCs revolves around whether they will replace institutional learning, in this model MOOCs and institutions can forge a symbiotic relationship.

What does this mean for academic relations teams within businesses who have a skill-building mission?

The landscape is now that much more competitive. Working with faculty to introduce industry concepts or a point of view into a course becomes that much more tricky if the faculty is already sub-contracting education delivery from a MOOC. Also, from a faculty perspective, the traditional model where training materials are provided for faculty who in turn are then expected to learn the material in order to deliver the material to the class, suddenly looks much less attractive.

On the other hand, if industry can partner with the academic providers of MOOC courses, or indeed create online classes themselves, all of a sudden the potential to scale thought-leadership across a large number of schools becomes a possibility.

As Gregory Ferenstein points out in TechCrunch,

“we have almost no idea how this will affect our educational system. What we do know is that the unknown is coming — very, very quickly."

TechCrunch also offers their characteristically snappy coverage of the SJSU launch.

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