Uh oh, San Jose State University suspends online course project with Udacity

In a move that doesn’t bode well for massive and open online courses known as MOOCs, San Jose State University on Thursday said that it was pausing its highly-touted partnership with online education startup Udacity.
Given data indicating that students enrolled in online Udacity courses did not perform as well as students enrolled in traditional, in-person classes, San Jose State Provost Ellen Junn told Inside Higher Ed that the school has decided to take a “short breather” from the project to take stock and review the results. The plan is to resume the classes with Udacity in the spring of 2014.
The announcement comes on the heels of other events indicating concern among university administrators and faculty about MOOCs.
In April, Amherst College decided to reject a partnership with non-profit MOOC provide edX and, in May, professors at San Jose State refused to teach an edX course created by a Harvard professor.
Early findings from the pilot project between Udacity and San Jose State show that while 83 percent of the students enrolled in an online Udacity course completed the course, less than half passed the class, according to The San Jose Mercury News. The class included high school students and college students who had failed math previously, so it’s hard to compare their results with those from traditional college courses. But the findings still throw some cold water on the much-hyped MOOC phenomenon.
Considering the speed with which the academy has embraced MOOCS – Udacity and rival Coursera barely existed a year and a half ago and now Coursera, for example, has 80 top global educational partners and Udacity offers an online degree with Georgia Tech – many will likely be happy to see San Jose State hit the pause button and deliberate more deeply on the new kind of education format.
Indeed, Inside Higher Ed notes that San Jose State rushed to build its pilot courses with Udacity, which Junn said was a “recipe for insanity.” Professors were apparently too busy building the course to closely monitor student performance. Students in the summer session are reportedly faring better, in part because professors were able to learn from the spring experience.
In better news for MOOCs, San Jose State gives high marks to its partnership with edX. According to Inside Higher Ed, students enrolled in classes using edX materials are actually outperforming students in non-edX-supported classes. But while Udacity courses were built to replace the traditional classroom experience, edX courses are meant to supplement them.