SAN JOSE -- An experiment to offer for-credit, online-only college courses to the public at low cost will take a semester to retool before the classes go back online, say those leading the San Jose State Plus pilot project.

"If you keep teaching, you never have time to stop and reflect," said San Jose State Provost Ellen Junn, who is reviewing the results from the spring and summer sessions. "We thought that this would be a natural breaking point."

San Jose State teamed up with Udacity, an online education company, to see if students would do better in remedial and entry-level math courses offered online than in a traditional format.

The results from the pilot project are still being analyzed, but preliminary findings showed that less than half of the group -- which included high school students and college students who had failed math before -- had passed the classes.

The students struggled to pass their final exam, and some said they would have done better if they had more time to prepare for it -- an adjustment that might be made, said Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun.

But Junn and Thrun both said the passing rates should not be compared to typical college courses, as some of the students weren't yet in college, and others had struggled in the subject. Remedial courses at community colleges typically have passing rates of 10 percent or less, Junn said.


Advertisement

On a more promising note, 83 percent of the students completed the courses, which Thrun said was "great news."

Thrun said it will take time to make the adjustments -- for example, how to offer a final exam at different times.

"I wish everything went right on the first attempt," Thrun said. "But that's what pilots are for."

Junn -- who said she found the preliminary results intriguing -- said those involved in the project are making decisions as they go. "This has never been done before. There's no road map," she said.

Research with findings from the study is expected to be released in early August.

Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.