Online Education Lifts Pass Rates at University

Tim Goral's picture
Thursday, April 11, 2013

San Jose State University's test results are in: Online education technology appears to improve pass rates in real-world college courses.

The university, which is Silicon Valley's largest higher-education institution, on Wednesday said its first-in-the-nation test incorporating online content into a for-credit campus-based course increased pass rates to 91% from as low as 55% without the online component.

The public California State University system also said it would expand its relationship with the online course creator, a nonprofit called edX, by increasing access to the pilot electrical-engineering course to as many as 11 other campuses. San Jose State began the trial with edX in the fall. The university is also running trials with online education startup Udacity Inc. that began in January.

San Jose State said it would establish a center to study new online education techniques and train faculty in how to use them.

"Our hope is that we will be trying somewhere between three and five courses at San Jose State in different disciplines" including the humanities, business and social science, said university president Mohammad Qayoumi. "It looks far better than what we do in traditional classrooms," he added, in reference to the pass rate, though he cautioned the engineering-course results were preliminary.

California, which has faced budget cuts for education, is taking one of the nation's most aggressive approaches toward experimenting with technology for higher education. At a press event in San Jose, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said technology could help expand education to more students and save money, especially if students have to retake fewer courses.

"The old educational financing model frankly is no longer sustainable," he said. "This is an evidence-based approach to a new form of learning."

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