Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

In a Twist, Udacity Will Offer Cheap, Remedial Public School Algebra Courses

Over the past year, Udacity has established itself as a provider of free classes, mostly in computer science, offered online to large audiences across the world.

SJSUNow it’s going to do something quite different. In partnership with the state of California, Udacity will teach remedial and introductory courses on algebra and other topics to public university and community college students, for a vastly reduced fee.

Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun (the former Stanford professor and ongoing Google X autonomous car leader) and California Governor Jerry Brown are to announce the program at a press conference at San Jose State on Tuesday morning. A pilot program to adapt MOOCs — massive open online courses — for this purpose will open this month.

The New York Times describes the partnership as a way for the state to help address the fact that many of its students lack academic preparation for college. San Jose State has already been experimenting with MOOCs — it offered an electrical engineering class with edX this past fall. However, professors remain wary of being replaced by online education’s combinator of videos and “mentors.”

But the deal also benefits Udacity, which has massive dropout rates — the estimate for all MOOCs is that 90 percent of students who register drop out.

So, rather than its normal syllabus of aspirational personal enrichment classes, Udacity will be inserting itself into a more core part of education.

Thrun told the Times that he saw the program as an opportunity to figure out how to retain motivated students.

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