SJSU raises passing rate with online learning platform

San Jose State University recently implemented a hybrid class using edX technology and raised its pass rate by more than 30 percent, according to SJSU Director of Media Relations Pat Lopes Harris.

Harris said that the university is using edX, a non-profit online learning platform founded by Harvard, in an electrical engineering class and raised the pass rate from 55 percent to about 91 percent.

“Electrical engineering is important in the Silicon Valley, and we want to put out more college students in the workforce,” Harris said. “Students were not passing the class, and we looked at other resources.”

Harris said that the provost and some professors went to Boston last summer to learn about edX and decided to bring it to the campus.

According to Harris, students work at home with online lectures and tutorials and then are given problems to work on. In-class instruction begins with a 10 to 15 minute lecture, and the rest of class time is spent working on problems in groups with instructors providing help where needed.

Students find that the class is more work than anticipated but also helpful because it forces them to learn the materials in order to keep up with their fellow group members, Harris said.

“Students were better prepared following this class,” Harris said. “Plus all quizzes and tests are in class so cheating is not allowed.”

Harris said SJSU plans to open a “Center for Excellence” and hold a conference for the other Cal State Universities to talk about working with edX and show the results from the pilot class. The university also plans to expand the hybrid classes into other subjects, according to Harris.

Vice Provost for Planning and Budgets at Cal State Long Beach David Dowell said CSULB already has online courses and a few hybrid classes and is looking to expand.

“We have a project right now to convert 35 courses to fully online,” Dowell said via email. He said a project to convert about a dozen classes into a type of hybrid is also in the works.

Dowell also said that CSULB has discussed implementing Massive Online Open Courses, which are aimed at a wide audience beyond CSULB students.

“We may experiment with a MOOC in the near future, but our main energies will be devoted to redesigning classes aimed at our own students,” Dowell said.

Dowell said online and hybrid classes are beneficial to students who want to take courses that may not fit their schedules. He said hybrid classes are also more engaging because of the blend of technology and instruction that they offer.

Students were open to the idea of hybrid classes for more than a few reasons.

Senior health science major Christina Solis said she would take hybrid classes if they were available for her needs.

“I drive an hour and 15 minutes to school every day, so I am open to anything that does not require me to drive to campus,” Solis said. “I think these types of classes would help commuters and people with busy schedules.”

Solis also said she liked the idea of being able to work on her own time instead of attending lectures at set times.

Freshman biology major Frank Mai said he believes the hybrid classes would be better than regular instruction.

“It would force you to learn the material on your own and get help from classmates and the professor during class time,” Mai said. “It would be more time efficient.”

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