I’ve learned from a recent article in Fast Company that Sebastian Thrun, one of the fathers of MOOCs, the online free courses, is now moving away from the courses he taught at Udacity based a Stanford University. He found that the completion rate among his 160,000 students was only 10% – and the pass rate reduced that to 5%. What was supposed to open the world to education hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
On the other hand I’m apparently typical of the group that finishes course – people who already have undergraduate degrees. I’ve also learned if you are going to succeed at a university course you have to put in time and effort. I have now completed three courses – and dropped out of two for different reasons. I wasn’t ready for one of them – and there was no way I was going to the necessary remedial learning in a period of six weeks. Since assignment were evaluated by peers, I didn’t want to put them through having to evaluate work that clearly wasn’t up to the required minimum standard. I suspect there are a lot of students in that situation. In the other case where I was a dropout, I really did know the subject but was looking for new approaches and insights. When I didn’t find any, I left the class.
While Prof. Thrun is clearly an expert in what he does, learning does have to meet the needs of the students too. The courses I completed were extremely valuable and they have sent me in new directions already. So I hope he continues to evaluate and not give up on a very new kind of interaction between student and teacher.
So what’s that weird lid doing at the top? It was part of a Coursera exercise on the design of artifacts – just completed. We had to create a website to display our assignments so there was a double value in taking the course. You can see how it worked out here.