This fall, every electrical engineering program in the California State University (CSU) System will have the opportunity to work with the blended model that San Jose State University and nonprofit course provider edX piloted this past year -- when such a course in circuits and electronics will expand to 11 CSU campuses.
To support faculty members at these campuses, San Jose State established a Center for Excellence in Adaptive and Blended Learning, which it announced on Wednesday, April 10. The center could eventually train faculty at all the CSU campuses.
Along with its faculty training work, San Jose State will add three to five new blended courses in the fall 2013 line-up in a variety of subjects.
These blended courses involve watching online lectures from professors at MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and other universities, but also include daily quizzes, collaboration and problem-solving in person. The traditional circuits and electronics courses in classrooms have a pass rate in the 50th percentile. But 91 percent of students pass in the blended course "Introduction to Circuits Analysis" that included material from MITx 6.002x Circuits and Electronics.
Higher pass rates mean students spend less time in the university and save money by not repeating a course, and states and the federal government can make better use of their grant funding. Universities also spend less resources on reteaching more than half of their students in a particular course, San Jose State University President Mohmmad Qayoumi said.
But Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom stressed that the university is not just throwing up videos online of what they normally do. That's not good teaching.
Instead, as lecturer Khosrow Ghadiri said, they should be fun and involve demonstrations, like a video where edX president Anant Agarwal tried to cut a computer in half with a chainsaw to see how it affects the circuit.
These blended courses do take more time, as San Jose student Sara Compton shared. She does not only her homework problems, but also has a few hours of video to watch outside of class -- not to mention the time she spends in class. She does, however, like the ability to slow down, speed up or watch the lectures at normal speed.
And Ghadiri says the daily group and individual quizzes help him understand where students stand as far as understanding, see how well they work together and identify problems that individual students struggle with.
"This is a unique opportunity for the faculty to gear the course to the individual student," Ghadiri said.
Ultimately, scaling up blended courses like this one is one of many efforts that the California State University System is looking to as a way to increase time-to-graduation rates, access to education and college affordability. And those results are better for students, universities and the economy.