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Jan 16, 2013 05:13 AM EST

California University Experiments with Online College Courses

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The California State University System in alliance with Udacity has launched a pilot program of online college courses at $150 for weak students and for those who cannot afford huge tuitions.

Udacity, a provider of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), will be working with San Jose State University to provide remedial algebra course (a college-level algebra course) and introductory statistics, starting this month. The courses will be funded by the National Science Foundation to study the effectiveness of online teaching method.

Half of the 300 students enrolled in these courses will be from San Jose State University and the remaining half from other local community colleges and high schools. The courses will feature videos, interactive quizzes and regular communication with online mentors.

llen N. Junn, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the university in San Jose, said that California State University System faces a crisis because over 50 percent of incoming students cannot meet basic requirements. "They graduate from high school, but they cannot pass our elementary math and English placement tests," Junn said, The New York Times reports.

Last year, Winfree Academy Charter School system utilized Udacity's courses on a group of struggling high school students.

"I was a little scared to put our kids, who are struggling and at risk of dropping out, into a class written by a Stanford professor," said Melody Chalkley, Winfree's founder. "But of the 23 students who used Udacity, one withdrew from the school, and the other 22 all finished successfully. And two young women got through the whole physics course in just two weeks."

On the other hand, Udacity courses might pose a threat to universities' professors as the organisation may want to hire professional online mentors to teach the subjects. Udacity also runs the risk of triggering increased dropouts.

"I am personally troubled by the 90 percent dropout rate," Mr. Thrun, artificial-intelligence researcher at Stanford, said. "The students signing up are highly motivated - and MOOCs will only succeed if they make normally motivated students successful."

Tech Crunch, a web publication of news and analysis, stated that if these online courses become a hit with the students, the college campus will start to resemble ghost towns.

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