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an end among for-profit universities. [MOOCs] give you
the ability to increase the student-to-teacher ratio while
you raise the quality of the education. That's a win-win if
you're fighting for survival."
As former executive vice president and chief acquisi-
tions officer at Kaplan, de Muinck Keizer has firsthand
experience of what has transpired in the for-profit sector.
"I'm not saying anyone is going to fire the current faculty
en masse," he notes. "It will probably happen through
Indeed, it would be a mistake to see resultant changes
to higher education as some kind of overnight revolution.
Instead, it's a quickening of an evolution that has been go-
ing on for decades. "The roles of educators have been
changing for a while," observes Susan Gautsch, direc-
tor of e-learning and a practitioner on the faculty in in-
formation systems at Graziadio School of Business and
DESPITE THE HOOPLA surrounding MOOCs, major questions
about them remain unresolved: Does the MOOC model work
with actual college students? Are these classes scalable and
sustainable? And can they generate revenue?
San Jose State University (CA) is in the process of answering
these questions with a pilot program called "SJSU Plus,"
conducted in conjunction with MOOC provider Udacity. The
program consists of three classes---entry-level mathematics,
elementary statistics, and college algebra. Each course is limited
to 100 students, 50 of whom attend the university and 50 non-
matriculating students, including veterans, community college
students, and even high school students.
The classes are not technically MOOCs, because they're
limited to these small groups of students. But they're the
country's first MOOC-formatted courses that are credit based,
and the school hopes to learn how---and whether---to use the
model in its strategic planning. The Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation is providing a small grant to support the program,
and the National Science Foundation is funding a separate
research effort by the university to evaluate student learning and
faculty experiences in the pilot.
"It seems as if someone is announcing every half hour that
they're doing a MOOC," says Ellen Junn, provost and vice
president for academic affairs at SJSU. "And you see these
huge numbers---hundreds of thousands of students enrolled in
these classes---but the completion rates are barely into double
digits. This is a very interesting, new, disruptive innovation, but
what do we really know about it? It's premature to jump to
conclusions. That's why we're testing it. Our goal is to dig deep
and really understand what we have here."
In the view of Susan Gautsch, director of e-learning at
Pepperdine University (CA), the MOOC movement will get a
tremendous boost if SJSU's for-credit course pilot is a success.
"For hundreds of years people have said that education does
not scale," she explains. "But it does now. That small group of
students taking those classes at San Jose State could one day
be a hundred times larger. This is the magic of MOOCs."
Udacity is one of three major MOOC players currently in the
market, in addition to edX and Coursera. It took several months
to "Udacify" the traditionally taught SJSU classes. The result is
a highly interactive online course designed to give the impression
that the student is sitting next to someone explaining the
concepts. No "lecture, test, lecture, test," says Ron Rogers, an
SJSU professor who, along with professor Sean Laraway,
worked with Udacity to produce the statistics course.
Although the course is still under way, Rogers says the first
exam produced test scores that were "incredibly consistent"
with the scores he has seen over the past five years teaching
the class. "So, at first blush, it seems to be working just as well."
The school is also evaluating the MOOC business model,
which involves a revenue-sharing plan with Udacity: The school
gets 51 percent of any revenue after costs. Also, Udacity
licenses the content of the MOOCs under a Creative Commons
license, which keeps it open source but not resalable.
GIVING CREDIT FOR MOOCS
"Higher education in 15 to 20
years is going to be a totally
different beast, unrecognizable
by today's standards."
---Susan Gautsch, Pepperdine
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