New York Times: MOOCs Being Rethought!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has an article discussing MOOCs, their recent failures, and speculating about their future.  This topic has been well-covered in other media such as The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Times article references several studies that found serious shortcomings with MOOC implementations and particularly the experiment at San Jose State University.

“And perhaps the most publicized MOOC experiment, at San Jose State University, has turned into a flop. It was a partnership announced with great fanfare at a January news conference featuring Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a strong backer of online education. San Jose State and Udacity, a Silicon Valley company co-founded by a Stanford artificial-intelligence professor, Sebastian Thrun, would work together to offer three low-cost online introductory courses for college credit.

Mr. Thrun, who had been unhappy with the low completion rates in free MOOCs, hoped to increase them by hiring online mentors to help students stick with the classes. And the university, in the heart of Silicon Valley, hoped to show its leadership in online learning, and to reach more students.

But the pilot classes, of about 100 people each, failed. Despite access to the Udacity mentors, the online students last spring — including many from a charter high school in Oakland — did worse than those who took the classes on campus. In the algebra class, fewer than a quarter of the students — and only 12 percent of the high school students — earned a passing grade.”

The article is right that it is too early to count the MOOCs out.  They will evolve and develop into new models probably as content providers for blended learning environments.  This was the focus of a talk I gave at the CUNY IT conference on Friday entitled, Blending Learning Meets MOOCs:  Education’s Digital Future.



  1. The quote in the NYTimes article about iteration being the key to innovation is really interesting/important, and also lines up with idea that MOOCs are evolving and with the point in the slideshow about predictions getting it wrong (only 6 computers needed!). I do wonder about the difference between innovation that’s product/commercial oriented (like a clunky to indispensable cell phone) and human rights/services-oriented (like education or healthcare). The idea of scaling creativity intrigues and worries me, too.