By Phil Hill
Last week marked five years since Stanford University introduced to the world the classes that would soon spark a frenzy over massive open online courses.
On August 16, 2011, Stanford unveiled three courses, taught by Sebastian Thrun, Andrew Ng, and Jennifer Widom, all computer scientists at the university. Their MOOCs borrowed key designs from Daphne Koller, another Stanford professor who led much of that institution’s early efforts in blended learning. By the following spring, Mr. Thrun had founded Udacity, Mr. Ng and Ms. Koller had founded Coursera, and MIT and Harvard University had founded edX, seeking to use MOOCs to transform higher education.
The age of the commercially oriented MOOCs, as driven by their most prominent supporters, had begun.
Fast forward to the present, and we have now witnessed the end of an era. While Mr. Ng, Ms. Koller, and Mr. Thrun remain on the boards of their respective companies, the biggest advocates of commercial MOOCs have moved on.
Mr. Ng left Coursera in 2014 for Baidu, focusing on deep learning research. Mr. Thrun stepped down as chief executive of Udacity in April of this year to reduce his day-to-day responsibilities. He is now president of Kitty Hawk, a company focused on the development of flying cars. And Ms. Koller recently left Coursera to become chief computing officer at Calico, a company that researches human aging.
These days, no one considers MOOCs to be the future of education or a threat to the modern university, as had been so frequently claimed when the courses were first attracting international media attention. Udacity has shifted its focus to job-skills training, and Coursera and edX are still searching for ways to bring in long-lasting revenue.
So will these changes in corporate vision and leadership change the long-term trajectory of MOOCs?
[ Full article (subscription needed) available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://www.chronicle.com/article/MOOCs-Are-Dead-Long-Live/237569 ]