Udacity/San Jose State University MOOC Experiment Flops


A partnership between San Jose University and Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider, to offer several MOOCs got off to a rousing start at a 45-minute news conference in January. People there included the governor of California, the president of San Jose State University, and Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity.  (See a report in Inside Higher Education)

The results of the experiment are now in. With more than half the students failing all the courses, the experiment has been put on hold.

Read the reaction of two San Jose faculty members to the failed experiment in a opinion article.

We agree with them that “dealing with tough economic times by handing off education to private vendors” is a bad idea and with the editors of the Los Angeles Times, who concluded,

“Even pilot programs must be carried out with more care. Online courses should be developed thoughtfully, from within the colleges, not as a result of top-down directives from the governor. The subjects that are offered should be based on student demand and faculty analysis of which would work best online.

“The preferences of even the best-intentioned billionaires should not be part of the equation. Nor should online courses be viewed as major money-savers, as Brown has pitched them. It still takes well-educated people, interacting with those who need an education, to provide high-quality courses, whether that’s via the Internet or in a classroom. (See the whole LA Times editorial.)

Forbes magazine also got it right. “Failing fast” may be good for Silicon Valley start-ups, but it’s bad for students.”