Online Classes in California Expand in Public-Private Partnership

Online Classes in California Step Forward Credit: jcjgphotography / Shutterstock.com[/caption]

Udacity, a private online education system, is partnering with San Jose State University to offer online math courses this Summer. It’s an expansion of the initial implementation for the Spring 2013 semester. The success of the partnership will determine if the university will implement online classes in the Fall semester.

EdSource spoke to Udacity spokesperson Clarissa Shen and broke down exactly what the summer collaboration entails:

“This summer Udacity will add Introduction to Programming and Introduction to Psychology to its three math classes. The price will remain at $150 for the credit courses that are accepted by the California State University system and most major U.S. universities, according to Shen. The normal cost of a CSU course is about $450, with the state subsidizing another $450.”

The Spring semester pilot reached out to 100 students, but the Summer expansion will increase its reach to 1,000 students.

Concerns about student-instructor interaction were addressed by Udacity to some degree. It found that email correspondence was ineffective, but text messages are more engaging. Phone calls may also be arranged.

Online classes have generally high dropout rates, but Udacity touts a higher level of student engagement to retain a larger percentage of initial enrollees.

Gov. Jerry Brown supported the initial partnership launch back in January. His proposed 2013-2014 budget allocates $16.9 million to community colleges to expand online class offerings. The governor has also encouraged the University of California system to delve into the online instruction.

University of California officials have been adamantly opposed to creating a partnership with private education entities to offer classes. The opposition came out after Senate Pro tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) sponsored a bill that would accredit certain private online classes for public universities.

Community colleges and state universities have offered online classes in the past, but have been done by the campus itself. Inviting a private educator into a public college system can be seen as outsourcing education to lower costs. Supporters commend online education for expanding the availability of overcrowded introductory courses.

The effectiveness and success of SJSU’s collaboration with Udacity will shape future debate on the place of online classes at universities.