The Failure of Udacity

George Siemens, Venture Beat, Nov 16, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

George Siemens's take on a Fast Company article describing a Udacity "pivot", which I echo, is that Udacity has admitted its failure. "No one did more of a disservice to MOOCs than Thrun through his wild proclamations ('we have found the magic combination for online learning' and 'in the future there will only be 10 universities', digital learning manifestos, and so on) and self-aggrandizing," says Siemens. And now, after all that, Thrun says, "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." Yeah.

So now Udacity will abandon the effort to educate the people of the world and purn to corporate learning. "Make no mistake," says Siemens. "This is a failure of Udacity and Sebastian Thrun. This is not a failure of open education, learning at scale, online learning, or MOOCs. Thrun tied his fate too early to VC funding. As a result, Udacity is now driven by revenue pursuits, not innovation. He promised us a bright future of open learning. He delivered to us something along the lines of a 1990′s corporate elearning program." In corporate learning, Udacity is probably no match for established competitors that get real results. The VCs who backed Thrun are going to lose most of their money.

Related: Rolin Moe says "Shifting models means never having to say you’re sorry." Also, Audrey Watters: "Why We Shouldn't Celebrate Udacity's 'Pivot'" And Michael Caulfield, "Thrun Enters Burgeoning Sieve Market." More: Inge de Waard, "Annoyed by genius @Thrun on education, me on a rant." And Alastair Creelman, "Staying the Course." And Bonnie Stewart, "In the wake of MOOC hype, what shall we talk about?" And Martin Weller, "Stop me if you think you've heard this one before."

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