Early this year, San Jose State announced that it was entering into an agreement with online course provider, Udacity, in which Udacity would provide a number of online courses to SJSU students. The University is now suspending this program because in a spring pilot of the courses, the majority of students failed remedial math, college-level algebra and basic statistics courses. As the LA Times archly reported, "in a somewhat more promising outcome, 83% of students completed the classes." Completed but failed, it would appear. More details in the LA Times article.
Online education - whether free-standing or integrated with live courses - will become increasingly important in the future. But the challenge of providing excellent courses that capture the full attention of students remains difficult. At this point, my sense is that the sizzle continues to be me impressive than the steak. The reason, in my view, is simple: the most effective online education is not inexpensive. Once the driving force behind online ed shifts from cost savings to the twin benefits of flexibility and superior outcomes, online education will begin to take its appropriate place in the educators toolbox.
It would seem that Udacity, offering unsuccessful courses at the low, low price of $150 each, is the wrong idea at the right time.