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The MOOC Backlash — Udacity’s Pivot

02 Dec

By Jonathan Haber

Wrapping up my response to the MOOC backlash (if only to allow me to return to my more comfortable role of MOOC curmudgeon), it’s time to look at the biggest story that has gotten MOOC critics all a-Twitter: the decision by Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity, to “pivot” away from his original plan to shake higher education to its foundation. (A profile of Thrun in which he discussed the decision can be found here, and an archetypical associated backlash story can be found here.)

Given some of the bold predictions Thrun made during the early stages of MOOC hyper-zeal (statements even he later regretted), I can understand the desire to gloat when someone who predicted the imminent closing of all but 10 colleges and universities in the world was forced to scale back from revolutionizing higher education to the more mundane task of training corporate cogs.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “pivot” describes the way startup companies change course once they realize that the product they’re in love with might not interest any paying customers, or a market they thought could be measured in the billions turns out to not exist.

As it happens, I learned this term by taking a class in entrepreneurship from Udacity (an extremely informative and valuable class I should point out), and while this change in strategy by one of the pioneers in MOOCdom is significant, it’s important to first highlight what this move doesn’t mean by dealing with some of the backlash-driven interpretations that represent the same level of uninformed zeal we saw from the MOOC boosters that critics so decry.

Previous pieces cover issues such as drop-out rates and the dynamic vs. static nature of MOOCs, so I won’t go over that territory again. But given how much emphasis many MOOC-dislikers place on premature remarks one leader in this field made years ago, it’s fair to consider the far more circumspect and temperate language that’s been used by him and other MOOC leaders since.

[ Full article available at The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-haber/the-mooc-backlash-udacity_b_4339487.html ]

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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in MOOCs in the News

 

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