“Have fun storming the castle!”

14 11 2013

Sebastian Thrun has given up on MOOCs???!!! Say it isn’t so. Actually, it isn’t. He’s just given up on disrupting higher education, where they have all these crazy ideas about most students actually learning stuff in the courses they take:

But for Thrun, who had been wrestling over who Udacity’s ideal students should be, the results were not a failure; they were clarifying. “We were initially torn between collaborating with universities and working outside the world of college,” Thrun tells me. The San Jose State pilot offered the answer. “These were students from difficult neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in their lives,” he says. “It’s a group for which this medium is not a good fit.”

So put your cauldrons of boiling oil away. Instead, Thrun is going to disrupt industrial education, where the standards aren’t quite so high for people actually learning anything when they go through job retraining:

Thrun, ever a master of academic branding, terms this sponsored-course model the Open Education Alliance and says it is both the future of Udacity and, more generally, college education. “At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment,” Thrun says, sounding more CEO than professor. “If you focus on the single question of who knows best what students need in the workforce, it’s the people already in the workforce. Why not give industry a voice?”

“Think it’ll work?”

“It would take a miracle.”




8 responses

14 11 2013

“At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment”!?

What a small-minded f*ck.

14 11 2013

Good Lord. Tech people are monomaniacs. The only answers to life’s little questions is more code and/or more venture capital.

14 11 2013

Did he not even look at SJSU’s student information or admissions requirements? If he wants students with less complicated, easy lives, he’s going to have to go for at least the upper middle class, and the more elite schools aren’t going to sell their own students (though many are help to sell ours).

Does he think that employees and people trying to train for new positions or work don’t have complicated lives? Most working peoples’ lives are even more complicated than most students’ lives (even when students are working and all).

14 11 2013
Spanish Prof

Does this mean no more patronizing BS as to how they are going to educate poor, oppressed people in remote countries? Please….

14 11 2013
Jonathan Rees

Sorry Spanish Prof,

That was always Coursera. Keep your cauldron’s of boiling oil ready for them if they ever make it to our castle, but somehow I doubt it.

14 11 2013

Amazing to realize that the “University of the Air” imagined students being “stuffed with facts” via a “portable receiving set”—the pocket radio! Just as unrealistic as Thrun’s vision, and my own students’—they also seem to confuse learning with fact-acquisition. To think that students in third-world countries would be easily enlightened by listening to (and okay, chat-rooming about) a recorded Harvard lecture, no matter how many interactive bells and whistles it sported, when so many students who look traditionally well prepared by sophisticated American schools cannot adjust to the level and “culture” of Harvard courses…I’m always amazed at the naive assumptions made by educators who forget that the reason they can intellectualize as they do is at least partly their traditional-education background, with all the habits of mind and sophistications of perspective that entails. How can they think young people who lack intellectual training can step directly into high-level interaction? It’s like expecting someone who has never played the violin to watch some demonstration lessons, scratch around on his or her own, and then successfully audition for the New York Philharmonic. I’m afraid Professor Thrun’s awakening will be no more useful to the new set of students he hopes to help. I love him for his desire to help aspiring minds of the world, but I don’t think he should be biking around like mad clad in his own naivete.

15 11 2013

I actually think there might be a fair amount of money in selling on-line courses to businesses. However, I don’t see these MOOC companies being anywhere near competitive. They are full of woolly thinking that bears no relation to the real world. Silo thinking of computer scientists maybe? I think existing consultants have and will beat them on this one every time (which I guess is Jonathan’s point).

On an unrelated note my trade union has published a Briefing Paper on MOOCs:

15 11 2013
People who need people. | More or Less Bunk

[…] my initial reaction to Sebastian Thrun’s already-infamous MOOC pivot was quick, and not entirely serious, […]

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