MOOC Chatter: Fast Company Interviews Thrun

Fast Company gets all hot and bothered about MOOCs and Sebastian Thrun’s (the movement’s Tim Berners-Lee) qualms and new directions. They hardly seem like news flashes:

As Thrun was being praised by Friedman, and pretty much everyone else, for having attracted a stunning number of students–1.6 million to date–he was obsessing over a data point that was rarely mentioned in the breathless accounts about the power of new forms of free online education: the shockingly low number of students who actually finish the classes, which is fewer than 10%. Not all of those people received a passing grade, either, meaning that for every 100 pupils who enrolled in a free course, something like five actually learned the topic. If this was an education revolution, it was a disturbingly uneven one.

“We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product,” Thrun tells me. “It was a painful moment.” Turns out he doesn’t even like the term MOOC.

The crux of the piece (full of rather yucky lifestyle writing, proving that the Fast Company editors are every bit as indulgent to their wards as The New Yorker ones) seems to be the less than shocking news that Udacity is focusing on workforce training and the business customer. (Is there MOOC provider out there that isn’t thinking seriously about this market?)  Still it’s worth a browse.

Technology in Education, the prequel.
A film! Educational technology as it once was in a Boston Latin Classroom of the 40s. (Courtesy of BPL’s great flickr stream).

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