—Better orientation, particularly for students not otherwise enrolled at SJSU.—More encouragement along the way, including online tools to help students track their progress and mentors checking in with students more frequently.—More communication, with student feedback incorporated into changes in the courses. “We’re also sending less email and more messages when students are ‘in class’ online,” according to Junn.
The news isn’t all good. While far more students passed their classes than in the spring offerings, the retention rate was lower, leading some to speculate that some of the improved results were due to failing students simply dropping out of the course before taking the final test. But we should also keep in mind that enrollment for the online courses was far higher than for traditional classroom offerings. The program thus reached many students who would not otherwise have been served.We’ve been MOOC-boosters from almost the beginning, but we have always expected that, as with any new technology, there would be a period where institutions would have to iron out the inevitable kinks in implementation. That’s what we’re seeing right now in San Jose State and in places like Georgia Tech. SJSU’s experience suggests that the experimentation is finally paying off.