SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Gov. Jerry Brown joined a news conference Tuesday to announce the launch of a pilot project offering low-cost online classes to students at San Jose State University, community colleges, high schools and military veterans.

The online classes in the pilot project, created in a partnership between SJSU and Palo Alto-based technology start-up company Udacity Inc., include entry-level math, college algebra, and elementary statistics, classes that normally have high failure rates, university officials said.

Five college faculty members will oversee the three classes using instructional videos with imbedded quizzes and access to course mentors for support, according to Ellen Junn, the university’s vice president for academic affairs.

The classes, which are good for college credit, will cost only $150 each with no textbooks required and are set to run from Jan. 30 to mid-May, Junn said.

Brown said that he emailed Udacity Inc. co-founder and CEO Sebastian Thrun last summer after reading about the company’s free online classes and later convinced Thrun to run inexpensive math classes for California college students.

Udacity’s online classes are open to anyone with an Internet connection and include short video lectures by university professors and quizzes. The classes offered by San Jose State will differ in that direct human mentorship will be available and students will receive college credit.

“This is an exciting moment in the future of our state,” Brown said.

The new pilot program will permit more students to take in-demand remedial math courses that often are unavailable or difficult to enroll in on a college campus, Brown said.

“We know millions of kids are not getting into college,” Brown said. “Only 16 percent of California state university students graduate in four years.”

Although the top third of high school students in California can get admitted to a California state university campus, as many as 70 percent fail to pass statewide exams in math and English and must take remedial classes in college, Brown said.

“They get into Cal State and 70 percent of them flunk,” Brown said. “We have a right to get better results.”

The governor looked on as San Jose University President Mohammad Qayoumi and Udacity’s Thrun, a Stanford University researcher who helped develop Google Street View and self-driving cars, signed the agreement at the morning news conference at the university’s Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

Registration began Tuesday and each of the three classes will be limited to 100 students, with 50 slots given to enrolled students at San Jose State and the other 50 allotted to high school students, community college students and military veterans.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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