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San Jose State University and Udacity Announce Partnership to Pilot For-Credit Online Courses to Expand Access to Higher Education

San Jose State University and Silicon Valley-based online education startup Udacity Inc. have reached an agreement to develop a pilot program to be called San Jose State University Plus, offering college classes for credit to SJSU and non-SJSU students beginning in January 2013. Registration begins today. The formal announcement will be made at a news conference at 10 a.m. PST Jan. 15 at San Jose State. View a live stream from the SJSU homepage.

The partnership will combine the knowledge and expertise of SJSU faculty members with Udacity's cutting-edge online platform and pedagogy to work together toward helping a greater percentage of students excel in their chosen majors. This pilot purposely focuses on two math classes and one statistics class that nearly every student must complete to succeed in college.

"As the public university that sends 8,000 graduates annually into the Silicon Valley workforce, San Jose State University must and will take a leading role in leveraging technology to transform higher ed with the goal of making a college degree affordable and accessible to all," said SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi.

The passage of Proposition 30 signaled renewed voter support for public higher education in California. But limited public resources, coupled with an ever growing need for college graduates to fuel the state's tech economy, means educators must seek the most effective means to expand access reflecting the California Master Plan for Higher Education’s commitment to a college education for all who qualify.

Expanding Access

This marks 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 very affordable price of $150 per course, about the same as a course at the California Community Colleges.

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.

“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.”

Entry-Level Mathematics (Pre-Algebra), College Algebra and Elementary Statistics are the three courses to be offered in this pilot. SJSU faculty members working with Udacity designed and created all three classes to include engaging video instruction interspersed with quizzes and other interactive elements, as well as course mentors supporting students throughout the course.

Innovative Faculty

"This pilot is possible because of our extraordinary and dedicated faculty members who care deeply about student learning and success, and their willingness to explore new ways to teach students, especially traditionally underserved students who aspire to college degrees and beyond," said SJSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

"Serving Silicon Valley, one of the most vibrant centers of innovation in the nation, San Jose State is home to instructors who are innovators, stepping up to team with Udacity," Provost Junn continued. "Together, we will explore and evaluate, in a systematic way, how we can provide a high- quality, interactive and exemplary online learning experience for all students that is affordable, lends greater access and ensures student success.”

The pilot program will address and study a number of pressing questions facing online learning including massive open online courses. Distinctive features include the following:

  • SJSU faculty members will create and teach the courses in coordination with Udacity, and will be the instructors of record throughout the term. SJSU faculty members will carry the sole authority and responsibility for assessing student learning. Each course will be enriched with support provided by Udacity staff members and course mentors, who will track, encourage and monitor students.
  • Three critical entry-level courses with high failure rates were selected for this pilot. Revising these key classes to improve student interest, engagement, motivation and learning should result in multiple positive outcomes for later academic success.
  • In this pilot, student enrollment will be limited to 100 students per course, with 50 SJSU students and 50 non-SJSU students. Priority enrollment will be given to high school students, community college students, members of the armed forces, veterans and waitlisted SJSU students. All students will earn college credit.
  • This pilot will include the formal collection and analysis of student learning data and faculty feedback to assess progress and mastery of course learning objectives and outcomes. Faculty members will be involved in this assessment by an external firm.
  • 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. Student identity authentication and compliance with all applicable privacy laws will be ensured and protected. Accessibility and compliance with all applicable laws for students with disabilities will be addressed.

SJSU’s Next Generation Initiative

This effort is part of a campaign led by President Qayoumi, who argues educational institutions urgently need new approaches to teaching and assessing learning that are personalized, collaborative, engaging and that relate to real-world, 21st-century problems. Learn more via the president’s white paper “Reinventing Public Higher Education: A Call to Action.”

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

About San Jose State

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,500 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

About Udacity

Udacity is a social venture that seeks to bring accessible, engaging, and effective higher education to the world. We believe that higher education is a basic human right, and we seek to empower our students to develop their skills in order to advance their education and careers. Udacity has been at the forefront of developing new online pedagogy that bridges education and employable skills with courses in Computer Science, Mathematics, Programming, General Sciences, and Entrepreneurship at

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