Online courses are seeing a surge in relevance these days. According to The New York Times, the state of California is planning to offer a range of online college classes at a California state university. If the students are successful, this could pave the way for hundreds of thousands of California students to learn through the Internet at a lower cost.

A deal taking place between San Jose State University and Udacity, a start-up from Silicon Valley that creates online college classes, will be announced soon for a series of remedial and introductory courses. A major issue that is being tackled through the online courses is the professors' discomfort with the concept, as these classes will be involving the professors.

This is also set to be the first time that professors at a university will have collaborated with a provider of massive open online courses to create for-credit courses with students watching videos and taking interactive quizzes.

Sebastion Thrun of Udacity (image credit: NYTimes)

Sebastion Thrun of Udacity (image credit: NYTimes)

A major problem for the California State University System is that more than 50 percent of entering students are unable to meet basic requirements, according to Ellen Junn, Provost and Vice President for academic affairs at San Jose State University. “They graduate from high school, but they cannot pass our elementary math and English placement tests,” she said.

The pilot program by Udacity will include a remedial course for algebra, along with a college-level course for algebra and introductory statistics. The courses will be limited to 300 students, half of which will be from San Jose State University and the other half from local community colleges, who will pay a lower tuition than usual. The cost of each course will be $150.

Open online courses gained popularity in 2011 after Thrun, a Researcher of Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University and Director of Research at Google Peter Norvig, offered to teach introductory artificial-intelligence courses online. Initial registrations for the class exceeded 160,000 students.

Two other computer scientists from Stanford, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, also established Coursera to develop technologies necessary to change the reach and effectiveness of online education.

The courses have become the centre of higher education thanks to a growing number of schools that have been experimenting with ways to offer the courses for credit toward a degree.

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