education-mooc

Leave it to Silicon Valley to slam dunk an online initiative. But this time, the player isn’t a tech company — it’s San Jose State University, which just took “higher learning” and gave it a whole new meaning.

The university piloted a program last fall that integrated online education with on-campus electrical engineering courses. Well, the experiment didn’t just succeed — it smoked the competition. SJSU announced recently that the overwhelming majority of students who took the enhanced for-credit courses passed — at a startling rate of 91 percent. For traditional electrical engineering classes, with no online component, the rate was just 55 percent.

The program took the traditional structure of organized learning — which involves attending class lectures on campus and doing homework off-site — and flipped it. Outside of class, the electrical engineering students accessed the online lectures and other content, and then physically showed up to class for discussion and group work under the direction of a professor. edX, the Harvard University and MIT–founded nonprofit, created SJSU’s courses.

In educational circles, there has been a lot of buzz about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) such as edX and others like it (see Khan Academy). But this case is noteworthy because it offers breathtaking, concrete results at a university level for for-credit coursework. Given how expensive college is — student loan debts topped a chest-clutching $1 trillion dollars — students and parents both should be supremely interested in making sure they get the most educational bang for their bucks. And this type of methodology could see to that.

The California State University system, of which SJSU is a part, plans to expand its partnership with edX. And if all goes according to plan, the pilot electrical-engineering course may reach up to 11 other campuses in the state’s public higher-ed system.

The university is also testing other providers, including online education startup Udacity Inc. The goal is to extend the offerings to other disciplines as well, including the humanities, business and social sciences.