Elementary Statistics with Udacity

Katie-KormanikHello! I’m Katie, and I’ll be explaining most of the concepts in Udacity’s Elementary Statistics course. There are many reasons to get excited about Elementary Statistics, which you can take this summer for college credit with San Jose State University.

I’m excited about teaching this class because statistics is an incredibly useful science centered around describing and analyzing data. There are many ways of doing so, and in this class you’ll learn the most standard and practical methods, and gain an intuitive sense of why these methods are useful.

Another reason to learn statistics with me: You’ll learn how to use spreadsheets! Alongside gaining a conceptual foundation for understanding these concepts, by the end of the class you’ll be able to describe and analyze data both by hand and in Google spreadsheets. Proficiency in using spreadsheets can be beneficial both in your career and personal life, as spreadsheets are a great organizational tool. You’ll also be able to interpret the results of statistical software.

We also teach statistical research methods. Here, I hit the streets to ask how to define and measure constructs like happiness.

The nice thing about an online class is that you can start whenever, wherever. Even if you aren’t sure if you want to take the entire class, feel free to dabble in the material! I think you’ll enjoy the class’s format, visuals, and real-world examples. If you want to take the course for college credit, make sure to sign up by May 24th. We would love to hear about your experience in the forums!

Katie Kormanik
Udacity Course Developer

Summer School 2.0 with San Jose State University and Udacity

Calling all students! What are you doing this summer? Working on your tan or working on your programming, math and psych skills? If you’re stressing about choosing one option or the other, read on to learn how you can have the best of both worlds when you sign up for Udacity’s online summer classes!

If you’ve been debating whether you want to sign up for summer classes, we’ve got something that will tip the scales in favor of credit — actually, we’ve got FIVE things that will tip the scales in favor of summer school and college credit!

Come learn with Udacity and San Jose State University as we present these five summer courses:

  • SJSU_javaIntro to Programming (4 units) – Learn basic skills and concepts of computer programming in an object-oriented approach using Java.
  • SJSU_PsychIntro to Psychology (3 units) – Take a journey through all of the major psychological concepts and principles.
  • SJSU_StatsElementary Statistics (3 units) – Describe and interpret data to make the most of all the information we have at our fingertips.
  • SJSU_math8College Algebra (3 units) – Learn complex numbers, functions, graphs, polynomials, inverse functions, and exponential and logarithmic functions.
  • SJSU_math6Entry-Level Mathematics (5 units) – Join us to learn elementary and intermediate algebra.

Classes start on June 3, 2013, and end on August 9, 2013.

You want to enroll immediately, you say? Want more details? Head on over to our College Credit page for all the answers to your questions!  Enrollment is limited and the deadline to sign up is May 24, so hurry to get your spot.

Udacity’s Statistics Course to Offer Insights Into Online Learning

Last week we launched three classes in conjunction with San Jose State University; Visualizing Algebra, College Algebra, and Statistics. The 300 students that are a part of the pilot will earn college credit upon completion of the courses. Outside of the pilot, these courses are also open to anyone that wants to take them. 

Katie-KormanikKatie Kormanik, the Course Developer for the statistics class shares some insights from developing the class with SJSU professors, Sean Laraway and Ron Rogers.  Here’s Katie’s article on EdSource, where she talks about some of the advantages of learning statistics on an online platform.

You may have heard of a new development in higher education: MOOCs, or massive open online courses, are challenging traditional notions of higher education. Allowing students to work at any time, any place, and any pace, MOOCs are free and are open to anyone. This is why they’re massive, often enrolling tens of thousands of students. This revolutionary medium of higher education may shift the entire paradigm underlying how education is delivered.

So far MOOCs have been an exploration of unknown territory, pushing the frontiers of how we teach and learn. A new pilot program between San José State University (SJSU) and Udacity, one of the leading MOOC providers, aims to determine the effectiveness of three specially designed MOOCs compared to the university’s traditional classes. Anyone may enroll for free, but only 100 students may take the MOOCs for credit for this initial round. This number includes SJSU students as well as non-matriculated students – with priority for the non-matriculated enrollment slots given to high school students, wait-listed community college students and veterans.

The format of MOOCs makes them especially effective for teaching statistics. I have been working closely with SJSU professors Ron Rogers and Sean Laraway, who determine and supervise course content, to develop Udacity’s statistics class. This experience has made me acutely aware of ways in which an online statistics class can be superior to a traditional one, and we are taking advantage of these differences in teaching the course:

  • Interesting data can easily be shared online for students to analyze in spreadsheets. (Use of basic analysis software such as spreadsheets is not only essential in today’s world, but also promotes algebraic thinking.) If data were presented in a traditional textbook, students would have to manually input each value onto their computer or graphing utility. This would be tedious with real-life data, which often have hundreds of values. The ultimate goal is for students to have a strong foundation in statistical thinking and to be able to conduct basic statistics-based research. The best way to do this is by analyzing real data.
  • Simulations and applets can help visualize complex statistical concepts, making it easier for students to understand them. These are readily accessed online.
  • Polls given to students throughout the course can allow students to analyze their own data. Since each MOOC has thousands of students, the sample size is massive. We use Google Forms to administer these polls, and results automatically appear in shared spreadsheets as soon as students input their responses. This is instant data on anything, any time, anywhere, which students can view in real time.
  • MOOC lessons are prerecorded so students can go over a lesson as many times as necessary to understand the concepts – especially important for statistics, a subject many people find intimidating. And unlike in a traditional class, MOOC instructors need not worry about spending time repeating or reviewing concepts since students can replay previous videos at their leisure.

Many people still doubt that online education can equip students with skills and knowledge as well as or better than traditional in-person schooling, especially in the absence of direct student-instructor interaction. However, “interaction” takes many forms. MOOCs provide constant quizzes, which keep students thinking; instant feedback, so students know immediately if they understand the material; dynamic visuals, keeping students engaged; guest lecturers (via video); and the ability to collaborate online with thousands of peers, some of whom may choose to meet in person to learn the material. Students can ask questions about the coursework on Udacity’s online forum, and popular questions will be answered in supplemental videos. SJSU students taking the course for credit also have direct contact with the SJSU professors and myself, as well as Udacity staff who are available 24/7.

In general, for-credit MOOCs bring a whole new level of flexibility into education, especially for students who can’t fit an in-person class into their schedule; who do not have the necessary background knowledge to take a class required for their degree; or who failed the intro course and, without the online option, would be forced to wait a year to retake it.

The SJSU-Udacity pilot statistics course began last week with more than 3,000 students registered. In regular MOOCs, around 5 to 10 percent complete the courses (this still equates to tens of thousands of students earning certificates for completing popular MOOCs like Udacity’s Computer Science 101, but this percentage does not include the additional tens of thousands who benefited from pieces of the course and who were not intent on completing the whole thing).

With this pilot program, we hope that completion rates will be equal to or better than those of the in-person versions of these courses. We will also analyze and compare student performance on the exams, which are identical to those taken by traditional in-class students. We are continuously improving the courses as we receive feedback, but we still have a long way to go before we can judge their effectiveness with certainty. This will be a powerful learning experience for everyone involved.

January Updates and Announcements

We hope everyone had a great holiday season. Here’s to a new year of learning and broadening access to education! It’s the beginning of the year but we have a lot of great things in the works. Here’s a summary of what’s happening.

College Credit

On January 15, 2013 we announced a pilot in conjunction with San Jose State University called SJSUPlus.  This partnership will make Visualizing Algebra, College Algebra and Statistics available available for U.S. college credit.  This pilot will be available to 300 students. In order to receive credit you must register on the SJSUPlus page to be accepted into the pilot.  These credits are accepted in the California State University system, and in the case of Statistics, in the University of California system as well.  Courses will also be available for those looking to learn or brush up on math skills.  Enroll for those courses on the Udacity site. These courses are open for enrollment and will begin on January 30, 2013. If you’re interested in seeing the full story of our press event and announcement visit our Storify page.

ACE partnership

We’re also working with ACE on a collaboration to explore college credit recommendations for four of our courses in addition to research initiative to look at impact and students served. This is all a part of wide-ranging research and evaluation effort to examine the academic potential of MOOCs and we’re pumped to be a part of it.


Thcrunchies2012ank you for your help and support in getting us nominated for a 2012 Crunchie. Now that we’re on the ballot please help us win Best Education Startup.  You can vote once a day.  The last day to vote is January 24th.  Vote here!

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Sebastian Thrun: Udacity Announces For-Credit Course Pilot with San Jose State University

Today Udacity is thrilled to announce a partnership with San Jose State University to pilot three courses — Entry-Level Mathematics, College Algebra, and Elementary Statistics — available online at an affordable tuition rate and for college credit. To my knowledge, this is the first time a MOOC has been offered for credit and purely online. Much credit for this partnership goes to Mo Qayoumi and Ellen Junn, president and provost of SJSU, and to the five fearless SJSU professors who have chosen to work with us at Udacity to explore this new medium. The offices of Governor Brown and CSU Chancellor White have also been critically important to this partnership for their leadership and expediency. Last but not least, I want to personally thank our great Udacians who, like everyone on this list, have worked endless hours to drive innovation.

Over the past year, MOOCs have received a lot of attention in the media and education circles mostly because so many students are taking advantage of the course for free. Predictions that MOOCs would fundamentally change higher education often revolved around the fact that the courses have unprecedented reach and affordability.

While broadening access and increasing affordability are very important, our work truly focuses on another critical aspect of MOOCs: that of pedagogy. SJSU and Udacity strive to develop the very best in online education. Amanda Ripley summarizes our pedagogical approach well in her recent Time Magazine cover article: “What surprised me was the way the class was taught. It was designed according to how the brain actually learns. In other words, it had almost nothing in common with most classes I’d taken before.” This is what we are after. We want students to become hooked on learning.

With this pilot, we will offer substantial services and instructor access for tuition-paying students. The objective is to increase success rates and enhance the learning outcomes for all students in the MOOC. Internally, we have been referring to this model as MOOC 2.0 — a new generation of MOOCs that will combine student support and services with the scale of MOOCs to empower all students to achieve mastery of the material.

Over the past few months, we have done substantial research on retention, outcomes, and the MOOC 2.0 model. But there is a lot left to learn and more research is needed. With this pilot, we will be able to dive deeper into the many open questions surrounding MOOCs, and perhaps arrive at a model that can add even more value to higher education. To be cautious, we are limiting the enrollment in this pilot phase, and we are working with a number of institutions, including the NSF, to help with the evaluation.

Living up to our promise to always provide a free path to high-quality education, we are also offering these courses free of charge as conventional MOOCs, but this path will not include instructor access, additional support services, or a path to college credit.

There may be a temptation to consider MOOCs the silver bullet of higher education. However, in the 1960s, we thought of TV as the solution, and it wasn’t. If MOOCs are to stay, we need patience, diligence, an ability to think critically about our own work and to continuously improve. I am extremely delighted that, with SJSU, we have found a partner who is willing to engage in bold experiments while applying the highest levels of academic rigor.

And finally, I am so excited to work with a partner who is committed to enhancing access to higher education! Too often high-quality education is locked up, not available to students simply because of where they were born, how much money they have, or any number of other factors. Broadening access is the most important ingredient for truly democratizing education and I view this collaboration as an important step towards that greater goal.

— Sebastian

Broadening Access to Higher Education: A Story From a Texas Charter School Pilot

Today, we wanted to share a story that is very close to us.  Stories like these remind us why Udacity began, why our team works hard every day, and encourages us that our mission to broaden access to education is, at least anecdotally, having some success.  It embodies why we exist and what we strive to do — reach and engage students in college level courses who would otherwise be left out, bored, disenfranchised, and not empowered to further their education.

Earlier this year, we received an email from the founder of Winfree Academy Charter Schools. The subject matter: Damsel in Distress.  In the email, Melody Chalkley introduced her school and her mission. Winfree Academy Charter Schools are located in Texas and serve “at risk” students.  In fact, 91% of their students are at-risk of dropping out of high school as defined by the Texas Education Code. Almost a third of their students are 18 and older, many are young/single parents, many were previously enrolled in an Alternative Education Program, and 17% are homeless… yet 81% of their seniors want to continue their education at the post-secondary level.

Melody wrote about the need to re-engage these students and prepare them on their road to college readiness with curriculum in which they could really learn at their own pace, learn by doing such that they are fully engaged, and could begin to be empowered again in their education.  We decided to do a pilot.

For the pilot, 22 students ended up enrolling in Udacity courses. All of them had indicators as being at-risk for dropping out of school by state and national standards and 78% were from economically disadvantaged households.  They had the choice to enroll in either Introduction to Statistics or Introduction to Physics.  We ultimately had 17 students enrolled in Physics and 5 enrolled in Statistics.  At 9 weeks into the pilot, 72% of students were trending above expectations set by their principal. In fact, 7 students had completed the physics course and 100% of the students in the statistics course were ahead of the principal’s expectations in their progress.

We were especially inspired to hear the stories about two of the girls:. J.C., a 17 year-old Hispanic/American Indian, and K.H., a 17 year-old Caucasian, both of whom had been “at-risk” since grade 7 and at their prior, traditional schools had not maintained enough of an average to keep them in school. Both of these girls were able to complete our online physics class at higher than 80%.

While there were also some constraints, added self-discipline, and some more features that came up for us to work on, as Melody shared the students feedback, we were encouraged by the students’ reviews:

“You get the one on one attention that you want. [The teacher] teaches you how to do the problems step by step and then lets you do it on your own. Another great thing about this is that if you do not understand it you can always keep repeating it until you figure out how to work it out.”

“I was more likely to retain the information because they learned it, then did it.”

“Teachers are online ready to explain and help you understand what you’re stuck on. …They explain almost everything in detail without a problem making easier for those of us who are tactile learners.”

We want to congratulate the students that completed the pilot program!  We take their feedback to heart as both encouragement and areas we will continue to build on.  And thank you to the Winfree teachers and administrators for all the work they do to help these at risk students meet their goals of going to college and taking college level courses.  Stay Udacious!

Work it Harder, Make it Better

Great teaching takes effort. It takes time. In traditional schools, the amazing teachers are the ones who continuously strive to improve their teaching. A class taught by such a teacher will not be the same this year as it was last year.

The opportunity for improvement is even more apparent in the world of online education. In this world, we don’t have to wait a year to make improvements and we don’t have to reteach an entire class. Instead we can take out a piece of a class that didn’t work so well, figure out why it fell short, and then replace it with something better. We can bridge the gaps in our content with additional material. We can supplement confusing topics with additional examples.

So in addition to working on a collection of new classes, we are also focusing on improving what we already have. We’ve already made significant changes to ST101: Intro to Statistics and CS101: Intro to Computer Programming. We’ve recently added some new material to PH100: Intro to Physics. This week, Peter Norvig will be in the office to begin making changes to CS212: Design of Computer Programs and Steve Huffman will be in soon to record some additions to CS253: Web Development.

If you have an idea of how we can improve, please let us know by taking this survey! We want to make the most educational and engaging courses that we can and we would leave to hear your thoughts.