Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - SJSU Plus


What is SJSU Plus and why is SJSU involved in this effort?

San Jose State University (SJSU) is partnering with Udacity at a groundbreaking online education venture (known as SJSU Plus at: to be among the first university to pilot a new form of interactive online courses to formally test if this modality enhances student learning and might improve greater access to higher learning through the use of educational technology. This partnership seeks to provide online, accessible, affordable, engaging, and highly effective courses created by our own SJSU faculty that would be available for credit at a very affordable price for all students, including under-served populations of students.

Why was Udacity chosen as a partner?

Udacity was an early pioneer in massive open online courses (MOOC) and offers highly-engaging video content mixed with frequent interactive quizzes and a contextual ‘learn by doing’, inquiry- based approach. Their newest approach also integrates more human interaction and connection by utilizing forums and mentors.

Why did Udacity decide to partner with San Jose State University?

Udacity believes that as Silicon Valley’s largest public university, San Jose State University has been particularly progressive in its approach to embracing new ways of teaching. Udacity was excited to collaborate with SJSU as part of a campaign led by President Qayoumi, who argues that higher educational institutions urgently need new approaches to teaching and assessing learning that are personalized, collaborative, engaging and that relate to real-world, 21st-century problems.

Who else is involved in this effort?

There are other external organizations that are interested in this pilot for a variety of reasons.

• The National Science Foundation (NSF), through its TUES (Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science) program, is funding our pilot to evaluate student learning and success outcomes, as well as faculty experiences in these pilot classes.

• The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have provided a small grant to support our three SJSU online pilot courses in partnership with Udacity. The Gates Foundation is particularly interested in what would happen if faculty blended the best aspects of their teaching to create successful MOOCs and whether or not a wider range of learners, particularly low-income young adults and students with lower levels of academic proficiency, can learn via MOOCs and receive credit for doing so.

Are our faculty teaching these courses?

Yes, our SJSU faculty members are creating the three pilot courses in coordination with Udacity, and they will be the sole instructor of record throughout the term. SJSU faculty members will carry the sole authority and responsibility for assessing student learning. SJSU professors will lead the development of the course curriculum and instruction. Udacity provides the online learning platform as well as offers SJSU faculty expert and extensive ongoing staff support in developing all course elements (videos, activities, quizzes) including training, video coaching, filming, technical support and consulting on instructional design optimized for the online medium. Once courses begin, each course is enriched with additional staff support provided by Udacity staff members and course mentors, who will track, encourage and monitor students.

How and why were the courses selected? How were faculty selected?

For this pilot, three foundational, bottleneck, entry-level courses, often with high failure rates were selected. By revising these key, gateway classes to improve student interest, engagement, motivation and learning, SJSU hopes to garner multiple positive outcomes for student learning and future academic success.

Once courses were identified, faculty were recruited by working with relevant department chairs, deans and associate deans who solicited faculty interest and willingness to work on developing these innovative online courses.

What are the specific chosen courses?

1. Developmental Math (Entry-Level Math, Algebra Review) Math 6 Course Description:
This course uses algebra to quantify and describe the world around us by exploring questions like "How many songs can fit onto your flash drive?", or "What’s a better deal: The family size box of crackers or the regular box of crackers? By the end of the course, students will have stronger skills for modeling problems, analyzing patterns, and using algebra to arrive at conclusions.
2. College Algebra Math 8 Course Description:
This class illustrates that math is everywhere. Students gain an in-depth understanding of algebraic principles, and learn how to use them to solve problems that they encounter in everyday life. Students learn about functions, polynomials, graphing, complex numbers, exponential and logarithmic equations, and much more, all through exploring real-world scenarios.
3. Elementary Statistics Stats 95 Course Description:
Students learn how to organize, describe, and interpret data, enabling them to think about the information in a whole new light. The class allows students visualize data, calculate statistics that describe data, and use statistical methods to make decisions.

How many students will be enrolled in SJSU Plus?

In this pilot, student enrollment will be limited to 100 students per course--with 50 SJSU students and 50 non-SJSU students. Priority enrollment will be given to interested and/or waitlisted SJSU students, as well as non-SJSU students, such as high school students, community college students, and members of the armed forces or veterans. All students in our SJSU Plus pilot will earn college credit that would be transferable to our campus or any other accredited campus.

How much will the courses cost for students and what services will be provided?

Each SJSU Plus course will be very affordable and cost $150 for matriculated and non-matriculated students and will be offered this Spring 2013 through SJSU’s College of International and Extended Studies (CIES). This is an enhanced MOOC model, where enrolled for-credit students will receive access to their SJSU professors, additional support services, proctored and authenticated online exams, and course mentors. These augmented services for students are designed to improve student connections with the professor and strengthen and support students’ learning opportunities. 

Furthermore, for SJSU students, the cost of these courses through CIES could be covered for eligible students under state (but not federal) financial aid.

For students not interested in college credit, access to the MOOC courses will be open and free as in the original MOOC model. Non-credit students will not receive any interaction from professors, nor receive any of the additional student support services, and of course, no college credit.

Is there a revenue share to this agreement?

Yes, after deducting combined SJSU and Udacity development and implementation costs, there is a revenue share agreement. Developing and offering these courses requires investments in a variety of baseline costs, such as course development and technical staff costs, instructor training and support services, as well as online proctoring, authentication and other administrative costs. In our joint collaboration, SJSU and Udacity are partners in sharing revenues after costs.

What are the dates of these courses?

These pilot courses will run during Spring semester 2013, from Jan. 30, 2013 to mid-May 2013.

Are there textbooks?

There will be no textbooks required for any of the courses as the content will be embedded and self-contained online. Faculty members may recommend optional open-source or free textbooks for students who would like additional outside materials.

Unlike other Udacity courses, are these classes more schedule-centric? Are there certain deadlines for fulfilling the course requirements?

The courses for credit will follow a similar schedule as those taught on campus. However, since Udacity courses can be taken at home or on the go, students will be able to watch lectures, participate in quizzes, and engage fellow students at any time that is convenient to them throughout the day/night.

Will there be any contact between faculty and students and among students?

Human mentoring will be available via chat rooms, a helpline, professor-facilitated peer meetings and mentor outreach when a student is falling behind and needs more encouragement and support.

How will student identities be verified during exams?

Exams will be proctored online, with no campus visits required. Student identity authentication and compliance with all applicable privacy laws will be ensured and protected. Accessibility and compliance with all applicable laws for students with disabilities will be addressed.

Will there be an assessment of these courses?

Yes, importantly, this pilot with Udacity is the first in the nation to be research-based, with the goal of formally assessing and evaluating student learning in a MOOC environment as well as assessing faculty feedback. Moreover, this pilot seeks to study the impact of MOOC-enabled learning for traditionally underserved students such as remedial students, high school students, community college students, students from under-represented minority groups and veterans. One of the major goals of this pilot is to include the formal collection and statistical analyses of both quantitative and qualitative student learning data, as well as faculty and student feedback to assess student progress and mastery of course learning objectives and outcomes.

Faculty members will conduct their normal assessments and evaluation of student learning for their courses, and they also will be involved in an additional third-party assessment conducted by an external firm and funded by a NSF grant.

Data and resulting reports regarding the outcomes of this pilot will be publicly available, widely disseminated and published whenever possible.