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Sebastian Thrun Pivots Udacity Toward Vocational Education

timothy posted about a year ago | from the marketplace-of-ideas dept.

Education 86

lpress writes "Udacity CEO and MOOC super star Sebastian Thrun has decided to scale back his original ambition of providing a free college education for everyone and focus on (lifelong) vocational education. A pilot test of Udacity material in for-credit courses at San Jose State University was discouraging, so Udacity is developing an AT&T-sponsored masters degree at Georgia Tech and training material for developers. If employers like this emphasis, it might be a bigger threat to the academic status quo than offering traditional college courses."

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What? (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about a year ago | (#45558473)

That headline made me think I had a stroke there for a moment. Again summary fail without context or that new fangled idea known as hyperlinks.


Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558741)

Instead of teaching (vocational) topics- to people (like) *timothy* hwo about we teach timothy fourth grade English so that (he) can learn to write.
OR BETTER YET! How about we FIRE timothy! With kdawson gone, only Soulskill and timothy remain to be skillfully removed. This idiot is a dupe MACHINE, does not profread [sic] ANYTHING, and spews out parantheses (randomly) as if he got some semen caught in the resistive membrane in his keyboard somewhere between the 9 and 0 keys.
timothy, face it. You would be better off bagging groceries. The site would benefit, and a new job would be available for someone with writing skills. Being a geek and being a skilled writer are not mutually exclusive skills.


kdawson (3715) (1344097) | about a year ago | (#45559309)

I agree, lol


Headline Translation: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558481)

It's a tough one this time, but I've worked it out:

"Sebastian Thrun Pivots Udacity Toward Vocational Education" =
Sebastian quickly spins around the city towards schoolyards.

The Headline is warning us about an impending Sebastian. Accordingly, we must defend our schoolyards!!

Accreditation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558487)

Without the seal of approval from a college accreditation agency, this is worthless in the real world. Might as well save the money and order a Ph. D. from a mail order college.

Re:Accreditation? (2)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45558513)

The certificates may be worthless. I don't know, I never tried to use them. But the skills they teach (Python programming, using AppEngine, etc.) are valuable. At least, in my corner of the real world they proved themselves so (this application uses AppEngine in Python [appspot.com] ).

Thus vocational (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#45558539)

Without the seal of approval from a college accreditation agency, this is worthless in the real world.

One might say that with the seal of approval from a college accreditation agency, most college degrees are worthless in the real world...

Which is why they have turned to a vocational angle, where you learn something useful instead of getting a "degree".

Re:Thus vocational (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45558707)

That doesn't really solve the problem in a substantial portion of cases. Unless a skill is strikingly visible in short order, or you have a prior in of some kind, people like 'degrees' because they serve a convenient signalling function in situations where full verification imposes excessive costs.

If you just want to do some DIY, or polish some specific skill for a job you already have, you don't need signalling; if you want people to hire you (or even get as far as bothering to test you in person), signalling has its uses.

Used to (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#45558869)

people like 'degrees' because they serve a convenient signaling function

No anymore they do not.

Or at least, they are not sending the signals they think they are sending.

Re:Used to (2)

mellyra (2676159) | about a year ago | (#45559789)

Or at least, they are not sending the signals they think they are sending.

The signalling theory was introduced by Spence in his 1973 paper Job Market Signaling [yale.edu] .

His basic idea is to view the employer as buying a lottery ticket when he hires an employee. He knows extremely little about the attributes of the potential employee that he is really interested in and thus has to draw inferences from easily observable attributes such as "education, previous work, race, sex, criminal and service records, and a host of other data".

Many of these attributes cannot be modified (e.g. race and sex) but those that can be modified and especially those where the cost of improving the attribute is low compared to its impact on the employer can be manipulated by the prospective employee to signal the employer about his qualities.

Spence primarily views education as a signal for work potential but he readily admits that it might, e.g. be rather used as a signal for status instead. However, the important point is that "signaling costs are negatively correlated with productivity" (or with whatever other property you want to signal your potential employer about).

Someone who has a high work potential will be more willing to get an education because getting an education will be cheaper for him than for other people - not just in terms of money (although you could argue that scholarships, a lower chance of not successfully completing the degree, ... can make it cheaper in terms of money) but also in terms of "psychic and other costs", e.g. time. Someone who already has a high social status will find it easier (i.e. cheaper) to get an ivy league education to signal this status to his employer than someone who intends to get that education solely to mislead employers about his true social status.

Although different signals can be appropriate for different types of work, the signalling value of getting an education is not about the content about that education. You aren't primarily demonstrating that you learned any useful skills. In fact the signaling value of an otherwise completely useless education might be even higher than that of an education that has a very reliable return in terms of real-world applicable skills, e.g. most mathematicians are not hired because they need theoretical math skills for their job but because mathematics has a reputation for being insanely hard. For the vast majority of people it doesn't make sense to study mathematics because the cost would be far too high and the rl skills learned are low. The same goes for almost any PhD degree - the knowledge learned while earning the degree is way too specialized to be of any use to your employer - but the fact that the cost of getting a PhD was so low to you (because you are so awesome) that you felt it economically worthwhile to get one anyways is a strong signal to any prospective employer.

That's the way those who think that signals are important (there are other theories that explain the value of education in terms of accumulation of human capital) think that signals do work. And correspondingly these are the signals they think they are sending by getting an education. Now, how do you disagree?

Re:Used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45559807)

Addendum: the economic crisis could be seen as a nice example for signaling at work. The opportunity cost of getting Master's and PhD degree went down as as the job market prospects deteriorated. So more people embarked in such degree programs but the value of the degree as a signal to potential employers fell due to its lowered cost.

Re:Used to (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#45559939)

Someone who has a high work potential will be more willing to get an education because getting an education will be cheaper for him than for other people

No, it will not. You have missed exactly the reason why college has lost any significance - because the cost of college is now equal to everyone, thanks to heavy subsidy - but also grown so expensive (thanks to the same subsidy for all) that the smarter players are not willing to saddle themselves with debt.

These days a far better signal is obtained through linked-in or a Google search than a college degree can provide. As the cost soars and the real world value falls, higher education is headed for a market reckoning.

Re:Used to (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45564029)

Aside from the obvious untenability on a continued financial basis, have you seen any sign that the desire for education-as-signalling has changed?

If anything, the intensity of the arms race underway (while obviously as sustainable as any arms race never is, especially since it's a race between employers who ask, but dont' pay, for additional credentials, and students who sacrifice both money and time to obtain them) suggests the strength of demand for signalling functions. Once a given flavor of degree becomes ubiquitous, out comes the pressure to either get the next highest one, or make sure that you get that one from the most exclusive institution.

It is easy to posit that this cannot be maintained; the numbers just don't work; but the fact that nobody has a chance of talking this particular bubble down from the ledge before it jumps hardly suggests a situation where skepticism in the utility of signalling, rather than an untenably expensive arms race in signalling, is undermining the process.

Re:Thus vocational (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about a year ago | (#45558725)

This is probably more productive then anything. Some people think you trade hours of the day or time for a paycheck. The reality is that you trade value for wealth. You bring value to the business and in return it pays you. Sometimes it doesn't pay you enough for the value, but that is the principle behind it. Going with the vocational angle will allow people to bring more value to the table and have more options in pursuing that wealth should a company not appreciate it enough. This will have nothing but positive results for both the workers and employers and should empower the workers to realize vast resources of wealth.

Re: Thus vocational (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558755)

If there were a shortage of value in the labor market, that might be true. In fact, there are few jobs out there regardless of your training.

Re: Thus vocational (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about a year ago | (#45558841)

I think there is a shortage in value. What you are seeing is an abundance of people without the abilities to provide enough value or the same types of value competing for the same jobs.

Training can fix this and when trained employees earn more, they spend more, but business grows, new businesses find a spot and it moves up from there. This of it more like a stimulus package from the government.

Not at all true (4, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#45558881)

There is a fact a high demand for actually skilled labor. There's a high demand for skilled developers, for example; I have seen that first hand.

I also know from others there is high demand for really skilled heavy machinery workers, skilled plumbers, skilled electricians, etc.

What there is a lack of is people willing to put time and especially effort into learning a real skill rather than a degree. You can find guys willing to sling code or a hammer as just a job, but very few that can (or want to) operate at a higher level.

Re:Not at all true (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45559255)

There is plenty of supply to fill those demands, at the right price. Demand for skilled labor without the willingness to pay for it doesn't count.

Re:Not at all true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45562853)

There is a fact a high demand for actually skilled labor. There's a high demand for skilled developers

Software developers are NOT skilled labour nor unskilled labour. Skilled labour is your electrician, plumber, mechanic, horticulturist, etc. while unskilled labour are typically cashiers, farm workers, etc.

Re:Accreditation? (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year ago | (#45558625)

Fortunately, there are already many specific well-recognized accreditation exams in the vocational education world. Many more are bound to spring up in the future, since they probably generate more money than the cost of administration. Once these accreditation exams become recognized within the industry as trustworthy, they will not need the blessing of some accreditation agency.

So let's say that you've developed a rigorous certification exam in some advanced Python programming techniques. Every additional person that takes your exam makes you money, because most of your expenses were sunk into the cost of developing the exam, which is already done. Administering and grading an extra test costs you far less than what the test-taker pays. So it's in your interest to have as many people as possible take your test. You make money and network effects work in your favor. That gives you some great incentive to encourage people to take your test, and the best way to do that is to put out a high-quality, free course on advanced python programming. Many people will learn from it and not pay you. But there will be others who learn from it, really get good, and decide that they want a certification which documents just how good they got. This person will be your customer. This kind of "everybody wins" educational scenario doesn't have to be a pipe dream, and it doesn't have to come from inside the entrenched educational system.

Re:Accreditation? (1)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45558653)

Also, your certification is next to worthless if nobody knows that it is. This gives you (and everybody you certify) motivation to get more people certified, up to a certain point.

Re:Accreditation? (1)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#45560551)

Six of one, half a dozen of the other. A college degree is a dead giveaway you'd spend more money on crap than housing for a piece of paper that says you have an education worthy of your vocation. What total bullshit! Save for a few fields of study, colleges are worthless advertisements for political parties, action groups and social welfare for those who have no value to mankind. Even those few fields of study , don't guarantee you will have the education you paid for and will cut you loose on the world with your raggedy ass degree anyway, to give poor service to mankind (and start collecting interest on that student loan).
Best off, save your money, study independently, do what you please and quit trying to feed the status quo. You will have put yourself in debt and at the mercy of fools, liars and charlatans, for worthless paper. With it ,you will only live a lie as a slave to someone else anyway and help perpetuate the cycle of crap anyway.
Honestly you could get more value from a vocational technical school and come away with actual new skills. if you just HAVE to work for someone else .
Even vocational schooling is a crap shoot, think of all the IT students on loans who got certified just in time to have all those jobs sucked out to Korea, India and beyond. Hey, the government accredited those schools, so I guess they can soak up the loss on defaulted loans. The average length of a career in the 70s was 20 years, now it is less than 6, you'll pay on your loan longer than that, maybe you even studied longer than that. Fuck em.
Find something you like, study it yourself, do it, fuck the rest and fuck anyone demanding a degree (especially Medical)

Re:Accreditation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45561691)

Even vocational schooling is a crap shoot.

It's more of a crap shoot than traditional university education. With vocational training, you learn how to do one particular (set of) skill(s). Sometimes you get a job with that. Rarely advance, but if it's an okay job, that's not bad. But if the job changes so that a new skill set is needed, they'll fire you and hire a new vocational grad. With a real education, you will have been taught how to learn, and hopefully will have kept teaching yourself new things about your field all along.
I never learned a thing about my field of work from my college classes. Oh sure, there was theory, and we designed some rudimentary ALUs and wrote our own compiler for a fake architecture, but the way we learned to do those things allowed us to learn to do way more complicated things on our own.

Re:Accreditation? (1)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#45573273)

You can only advance as much as your imagination and effort allow. VoTech in many cases teaches a skill that can be put to ones own business. Welding, Autobody, Botany, Barbering/Styling etc. Far less a crapshoot than a college degree and far less cost. Now if you can't set up a shop and advance yourself from there, buddy, maybe you DO need to work for someone else and just concentrate on getting my Coke out with my burgers and fries.

Not so much of a pivot (0)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45558503)

Most of their courses have always been vocational skills (mostly IT and startups related). This isn't so much a pivot as a business expansion attempt that failed.

I think that's a wasted opportunity (4, Interesting)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year ago | (#45558555)

I looked through the links now and I'm getting this subtext that Thun is sick of dealing with the bullshit that comes from trying to work within the framework of established universities and their entrenched faculties. The idea of moving into vocational education and forgetting the whole "get college credit" model really might be more dangerous to the educational establishment, and Thun really does seem to be hoping for their demise. (I'm guessing he sat through some rather ugly meetings with department heads and university administrators.) But I'm disappointed by this. If the way that university education dies is by vocational courses cutting off their air (=money) supply, something of great value will be lost, something that could have been transitioned without too much violence into a MOOC-style model. Because let's face it, vocational courses can help you in your job, but they don't exactly fill you with wonder and culture and insight, the way that well-crafted university courses can. Well, probably, "proper" college courses are bound to become MOOCs anyway, even if Thun won't be the one to do it. And if this is done right, the wonder, culture and insight that these courses can bestow will reach far more people than they reach now. But I don't think that there is any guarantee that this will be done right. It can also turn out canned, contrived, shallow, proprietary and generic. Insofar as I thought that Thun was trying to do it right, I consider this a victory for the bastards.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45558573)

EDx [slashdot.org] makes good courses, IMAO. Also non-accredited. But maybe accreditation is what needs to go. We have a lot of second and third tier universities who can be superseded by MOOCs with no loss of functionality for our culture.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45558577)

I meant the link to go to here [edx.org] . Sorry.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45559077)

We have a lot of second and third tier universities who can be superseded by MOOCs with no loss of functionality for our culture.

It's ironic that you limit it to "second and third tier universities" when edX was founded and is largely run by MIT and Harvard.

What do undergrad courses at the most prestigious universities offer that undergrad courses at the less prestigious universities don't? The material may be covered in greater depth, and the tests harder, but I don't see what that has to do with MOOC vs. in-person teaching. Just have different levels of MOOC. An additional advantage is that people who couldn't get into the most prestigious universities could prove themselves by taking the more intensive MOOC's.

Grad school is where the top universities matter, and the work done there is why many US universities are considered amongst the best in the world. You can get a very good undergrad education in many countries. For example the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey has excellent undergrad programs. But, while they have Ph.D. programs, the university doesn't do the sort of cutting edge research that distinguishes a top university.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (3, Interesting)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45559167)

I think (I was never in one) that the first tier universities allow even undergrads to interact with the world experts and do research under their direction (see http://web.mit.edu/urop/ [mit.edu] ). This is a non-scalable function, which MOOCs can't do.

This is the reason MITx is such a good idea for MIT - it doesn't eat into their customer base, but that of lesser universities.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45559289)

Why should such research opportunities for undergrads be limited to, for example, MIT students?

It brings to mind an anecdote (though a telling one). A friend of mine is a HS science teacher. They had a summer internship at SUNY-Stonybrook for HS students, and one of his better students attended it one summer. While there she discovered a wind pattern around Hawaii that no one else had noticed. The prof who was supervising these interns gave a talk at a meteorology conference in San Diego, where the new wind pattern was of particular interest. I've gotta give it to the prof for not being a credit stealer. Someone in the audience asked the prof how he had discovered this, and he said it was not him but a student. A grad student you're supervising? No. An undergrad? No. Then what? High school.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45561437)

The scaling issue is the shortage of competent researchers who can supervise untrained researchers in a useful manner. To do that you need to be good at research and good at mentoring.

well they are lot's of fluffy college degrees (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45558639)

well they are lot's of fluffy college degrees and lot's of people / skills that should not be in college but can do good in a vocational / community college setting.

Re: I think that's a wasted opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558673)

No, they had a low success rate with the college kids. Believe it or not, the same kids who skip or Facebook their way through large lecture classes without learning anything also didn't take the Udacity courses seriously. Most kids (save an outlying few extreme introverts who can't function with other people at all) do best in small seminar settings. There's a human need for attention and face-to-face interaction that MOOCs don't fill.

Re: I think that's a wasted opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558823)

There's a human need for attention and face-to-face interaction that MOOCs don't fill.

Just because humans are usually social creatures doesn't mean they need to be face-to-face with someone 24/7. It's perfectly possible to learn over the Internet if you're not an utterly worthless individual. You don't even need to be extremely introverted; that's just nonsense.

Re: I think that's a wasted opportunity (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45559107)

There's a human need for attention and face-to-face interaction that MOOCs don't fill.

In grade school? I completely agree. Somewhat in HS. After that, if you can't learn largely on your own, especially with online and other material available (and fellow students if you want) you shouldn't be in university. People shouldn't expect to be spoon fed the rest of their lives.

Re: I think that's a wasted opportunity (2)

achileas (2927229) | about a year ago | (#45559463)

There is still a great need for smaller, more focused classes at the university level. From your comment, it seems you haven't had the pleasure of one of these, because you are certainly expected to learn on your own. The face-to-face interaction and being around other people helps you learn different skills (presenting research is an important one in the sciences), and having a smaller (6-10 students) class allows for greater depth and discussion to be achieved. If you're still in college, I highly recommend taking some classes. And in graduate school, nearly all of your classes will be like this. So no, it's not a necessity just for grade school (unless you want to make the case that graduate students are bumbling morons and akin to 3rd graders, and I'm sure there are some faculty who would agree).

Re: I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | about a year ago | (#45560313)

Agreed. And if you can't do any project on your own, from your own house, without having to see people for three months straight, you're just a slacker.

We value collaboration in the workplace, because it allows us to do great things. We should also value collaboration in institutes of higher learning.

Re: I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

dcollins (135727) | about a year ago | (#45563777)

"After that, if you can't learn largely on your own, especially with online and other material available (and fellow students if you want) you shouldn't be in university."

Now, that's a restatement of the scene in Good Will Hunting where he points out that all the material covered in a college class can be found in the library, effectively for free. Technically true -- true ever since the Gutenberg printing press -- and yet the need and demand for face time with an expert teaching a class has not diminished. So the statement overlooks the support and resources that most people need in practice.

http://youtu.be/QnZ0Y4rvz6E?t=3m15s [youtu.be]

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

pikine (771084) | about a year ago | (#45558733)

If you just want wonder and culture and insight, Discovery Channel and National Geographic can easily outdo accredited universities while at the same time be more effective at conveying knowledge. I wish more broadcast media outlet would fulfill their educational responsibility. In the ideal sense, good news reporting can also fill you in a lot of context that leads to the current event. Only a few news outlets that I know of practice that kind of perspective news reporting, which is sad because I wish there is more. In the same vein, you can also find universities forfeiting their educational responsibilities, preferring to build luxury four year resorts with fancy dorms and gyms.

What universities should be providing is: (1) access to and relationship with experts of some subject matter, who can guide you for your own studies, and (2) a good research library or online publication subscription so you can study a subject in depth yourself and become an expert. Going to college just to enroll in some courses really is a waste of time and money. Next time you get the chance, ask your professor (current or former) what he/she works on for research, why the work is important, and how did the professor end up doing it.

That's assuming you are actually interested in studying. If you just want a good paying job, and depending on what that job is, education may be neither sufficient nor required.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (2)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#45558751)

If you find more wonder in the Discovery Channel than a good theoretical CS or physics class, you might have a superficial idea of wonder. :)

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

pikine (771084) | about a year ago | (#45561369)

This is how the Oxford Dictionary defines wonder: "a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable." Pink Floyd can fulfill this definition of wonder.

But I think ultimately, I disagree with your idea how the notion of wonder relates to theoretical CS or physics. In a pure mathematical sense, a theoretical study is the exploration of what logical consequences can be shown to follow from a set of well defined axioms. Theoretical CS uses a given computational model as the axioms and seeks to derive logical consequences that concern the complexity and computability of algorithms or problems under that computational model. Theoretical physics is concerned with coming up with the well defined axioms that have logical consequences which explain real-world, observable phenomenon. Maybe to some people that is wonderful, but wonder is neither sufficient nor required if you want to be a theoretician. If you do find wonder in theory and formal methods, kudos to you. :-)

I'm not saying I don't find wonder in theoretical studies, but both Discovery Channel and National Geographic have the scale to fund many educational programs beyond what most universities can afford. And broadcast media have developed a narrative style and format that makes conveying knowledge effective and attractive, with the purpose to induce a feeling of wonder. Otherwise it depends on the individual to find wonder themselves. As another way to look at it, some professors are very good at inducing a feeling of wonder in their students, but I wouldn't count on it if your goal is to study a subject matter and become an expert. There are ways to relate to a professor and his/her work even if the professor turns out to be an extremely boring person. If you go to a university just to find wonder, that's a waste of time and money.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about a year ago | (#45559099)

I have found that most people I know find their desire to learn or an interest in studying until well after they were supposed to. For what it is worth, the younger people who are interested in learning rather than going through the motions in order to complete some goal are to be commended. But the reality might be a lot of people do not appreciate or understand the value of learning until it does become a matter of the Discovery Channel being the lecturer.

That may be why there is a propensity to build luxury four year resorts with fancy dorms and gyms at the universities. It may be the marketing that keeps students around.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

pikine (771084) | about a year ago | (#45561617)

That may be why there is a propensity to build luxury four year resorts with fancy dorms and gyms at the universities. It may be the marketing that keeps students around.

It's complicated. The universities reap what they sow, attracting the wrong kind of students. And then after exhausting funds on fancy buildings, the universities are unable to provide education to the students who actually enrolled to study. I can't blame the students if you're fostering an environment not for learning but for distractions.

Back on to the subject of MOOC, I think it could be useful as a deterrent to curb the squandering of resources. But universities have in the past found ways to provide affordable education, so something else must have gone wrong other than the manner the courses are taught.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558839)

That's a nice narrative, too bad it doesn't make sense. Thrun is a tenured Stanford professor; he was already familiar with the inner workings of universities and their beaurcratic hurdles. Udacity demonstrated that it can not replace a traditional college course at this time, that's it.

Less bullshit isn't a bad thing. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558915)

How do you make money out of open source? Well, one way is to provide open source consulting. The bulk gets given away--the code might not have been yours in the first place. Someone wants something special, they pay you to do the work. The code, if any, (eventually, time frame of a couple months, leaving the customer some competetive advantage window) works its way back to mainline, ensuring customer isn't dependent on your continued existence. The upshot of this is that end users don't need to pay over and over again for the same thing, meaning the construction has more value to society as a whole. (Read Drucker as to why this is important.) While you're not getting filthy rich, you can make a living and you do get to work on interesting problems.

Something similar might apply to MOOCs. One of the first three (Widom's Introduction to Databases) already saw the regular classes whittle to low attendance because everyone was watching the videos instead, leaving time to answer many more questions, have little excursions for things you'd otherwise wouldn't have the time for, and so on. So giving away the material (which is no loss if you think about it, since the covered stuff is public already and can be had from many more sources) means for-credit students get a better education out of it.

So the pool of people with base level knowledge gets bigger, and the quality of the formally certified people goes up. Of course, the second is no longer optional due to the first. But overall, everybody wins.

So if this approach means faculties have to stop their academential habits, get their heads out of their arses, smell the coffee, et cetera, well. Wasn't it the raison d'être of universities to discover and teach?

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (4, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | about a year ago | (#45558987)

I looked through the links now and I'm getting this subtext that Thun is sick of dealing with the bullshit that comes from trying to work within the framework of established universities and their entrenched faculties

That's not what the article says at all. The schools did a pilot program, and of the students taking the course on Udacity, only 50% passed, compared to ~75% of the classroom students.

I'd love for Udacity to succeed too, but you've got to accept reality. As of right now, Udacity isn't as effective as a traditional classroom. Now, it's not useless -- 50% passing is still a lot of people getting an education.

Perhaps this just comes down to people learning in different ways: for some people, face-to-face interaction with teacher and classmates is essential to their progress. For others, they learn best from individual study. The second group can excel with MOOCs. But traditional classrooms will remain for the first group. Both groups end up winning -- the second because they have cheap and easy access to education, and the first because the reduced demand for classroom seats will drive down prices.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45559169)

But traditional classrooms will remain for the first group.

Then let them pay for the extra help that brick-and-mortar colleges and hand-holding instructors offer those who have difficulty learning on their own. I question whether the lower pass rate of the MOOC's is really an indication of inferiority. Maybe what it's bringing out is that some students shouldn't pass. At a university level, it's not enough to learn the material in the course as though it was HS. You should also be able to take the basics from that course and learn more on your own. If you can't learn the basic material without hand-holding, what confidence is there that you'll be able to learn more on your own?

OTOH, good lecturers can be very important. I can remember several I had. However, I mostly sat there and listened to them. There was very little personal interaction, even with comparatively small classes. Record the best people and use those as the standard lecture material, like the Feynman lectures. Offer a variety of lecturers too. I accept that a style that's good for one student may not be for the next. And fix those damn textbooks! There are some excellent texts in various fields, and often they become classics. However, there are other texts that are so bad that I couldn't understand them, even after I learned the material by other means!

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year ago | (#45559625)

You make a good point, but then again, if the passing rates were that low in college-style courses, why would we think that the Udacity system will do any better with vocational education? I don't think the change of direction happened only because of the numbers. But one possibility that I didn't consider earlier is that Thrun may have pivoted to vocational education because there, nobody is really looking over your shoulder and checking if your product is any good. So if your educational product sucks, take it to vocational education, where there is no quality control and lots of adult students eager to pay. I've never taken part in anything like vocational education, but I wouldn't be surprised if the typical course quality was very low.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

jelizondo (183861) | about a year ago | (#45559817)

There are several points on which MOOCs are different from regular Universities:

1) Typically, there are no formal requirements to enroll. If I want to take (say) CS 301 in a formal setting, I must have completed the previous courses. In a MOOC, I can try my hand and probably fail, but no one stops me from trying.

2) Many people find the course title interesting and sign-up only to drop a few weeks later, when the material proves above their competence and/or interest.

3) People who try MOOCs, in my opinion and I have no data to prove one way or another, have a job, family and other obligations which limit the amount of time they can put in. If the course is hard, then they fail, not because the course is bad, simply it requires more time than they thought.

For example, I took a MOOC on Mathematics on Philosophy, both being subjects of interest to me. It turned that the mathematics were more diificult than I had expected as well as the philosophy. I concluded the course and learned quite a lot but I did not bother taking the exam, because I knew I would fail. But I did learn quite a lot of interesting things, even if you could count me as a failure regarding the stats on the course.

The point of view of the academics or the promotors of the MOOC might be quite different from the POV of the people taking the course.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (1)

dcollins (135727) | about a year ago | (#45563879)

"Both groups end up winning -- the second because they have cheap and easy access to education, and the first because the reduced demand for classroom seats will drive down prices."

Well, maybe. One possible problem: Is the second group so diminishingly small that there's no business case for the MOOC? Obviously, Thrun and others tried to bull-through MOOCs for the huge mass of students failing at remedial math -- even though there's mountains of pre-existing research that it's an unworkable fit for those skill-crippled students. But he tried it anyway, because in theory if it worked there'd be a gold mine on the other side. Conceivably once it's proven that the prospective customer base is really quite small the bubble will burst and no will bother offering MOOCs anymore.

Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (2)

achileas (2927229) | about a year ago | (#45559453)

I agree wholeheartedly, but with widespread cutbacks and the like causing even public flagship universities to act more like the 'University' of Phoenix (okay, slight hyperbole), universities (and their state government patrons) are doing a well-enough job of killing the university model -- and that is a bad thing. You'll hear the same from many disgruntled faculty who are being heavily pressured to put their courses fully online, typically by recording lecturettes and writing summaries to hold students' hands through the material. And don't get me started on online quizzes/exams and the rampant (and obvious) cheating. These classes force one professor and 1-2 TAs to deal with 300+ students for classes that normally have one professor, one TA, and 30-70 students. The larger traditional courses (i.e. not online) typically have 5-10+ TAs covering 250 students (who don't have to come to the TAs for technical problems like they do with online courses) and are for introductory courses, while entire departments (including smaller, more focused courses) are being forced to go all online to reduce costs. This is something I've witnessed firsthand and have been on both sides of it - both as an undergraduate student and as a graduate TA that helped migrate courses to the online platform our university is using. It's crap.

MS the new VoTech (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558557)

The BS is the new high school degree. So now the MS is the new VoTech? Sheesh, people are getting stupid. I actually took electronics VoTech the last two years of high school in the late 80's, and we covered Karnaugh mapping, small signal response, assembly level programming, etc.

Thanks for giving up on poor students (3, Insightful)

Jonah Hex (651948) | about a year ago | (#45558593)

and shifting your efforts [slate.com] towards people who can complete courses, those who can do well in traditional college courses.

What’s got the academic Internet’s frayed mom jeans in a bunch, however, is that Thrun’s alleged mea culpa is actually a you-a culpa. For Udacity’s catastrophic failure to teach remedial mathematics at San Jose State University, Thrun blames neither the corporatization of the university nor the MOOC’s use of unqualified “student mentors” in assessment. Instead, he blames the students themselves for being so damn poor.

The way Fast Company has it, Thrun chucks those San Jose State students under the self-driving Google car faster than he chugs up a hill on his custom-made road bike, leaving a panting Max Chafkin in the dust to ponder the following Thrunism: “These were students from difficult neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in their lives. It's a group for which this medium is not a good fit.”

Apparently students fail MOOCs because those students have the gall to be poor.

The problem, of course, is that those students represent the precise group MOOCs are meant to serve. “MOOCs were supposed to be the device that would bring higher education to the masses,” Jonathan Rees noted. “However, the masses at San Jose State don’t appear to be ready for the commodified, impersonal higher education that MOOCs offer.” Thrun’s cavalier disregard for the SJSU students reveals his true vision of the target audience for MOOCs: students from the posh suburbs, with 10 tablets apiece and no challenges whatsoever—that is, the exact people who already have access to expensive higher education.

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (1)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45558635)

Because a startup is obligated to serve those who need help that it cannot provide, rather than those who make the best use of its technology?

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558675)

A startup is obligated to return on its venture capital, and it's not going to be able to do that by selling crappy non-accredited vo-tec programs to people who can afford real college.

Since this guy's programs don't seem to work for people who can't afford real college, either, it's about as useful as a screen door on a bicycle.

So. Back to the drawing board!

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45558781)

Obligated? Not in general (in this case, the startup had agreed to a partnership that involved serving these students, so it does represent a failure-in-contracting, whether because they overestimated the quality of their product or because they failed to come to an understanding with the customer about what was expected and what would be delivered. Not uncommon problems; but not virtues.)

However, while nobody is obligated to provide a universal product, this particular failure suggests a very dramatic narrowing of the scope for Udacity's product: It proved to be unsuitable to most customers, and the customers it was most suitable to were the ones that are generally considered relatively easy cases. That certainly isn't good news for any allegedly-disruptive offering, which is what Udacity has been selling itself as.

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (2)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45558807)

Udacity is doing a good job (based on my, admittedly limited, experience) providing extra training for mid-career professionals. That is a bigger market, for most industries, than college-age students who want to get into the industry.

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (2)

SolemnLord (775377) | about a year ago | (#45558923)

Because a startup is obligated to serve those who need help that it cannot provide, rather than those who make the best use of its technology?

When you make promises about radically upending education for everyone, it turns out you have to actually include everyone.

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45559019)

A sufficiently vigorous exclusion theoretically fulfills the requirements of 'radically upending', if perhaps not the spirit of the request...

And boy are problems easier when you just reject the ones you don't know how to solve, then give yourself a gold star...

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45559245)

Thrun’s cavalier disregard for the SJSU students reveals his true vision of the target audience for MOOCs: students from the posh suburbs, with 10 tablets apiece and no challenges whatsoever—that is, the exact people who already have access to expensive higher education.

That's trying to turn an educational issue into a class/economic issue. MOOC's have the potential to do just the opposite - allow good students to get a good education, regardless of how much money they have. What makes the author think that all good students come from "posh suburbs"? People from working class and poor families can't be smart? Talk about condescension and prejudice.

With the already exorbitant and fast rising costs of college, we're probably moving away from a meritocracy. In the early 20th century and before, usually only the rich kids went to college. Then low cost public universities increased, and after WWII there was the GI bill. Then you had people from not-so-well-off families going to college, competing more on academic ability than ability to pay. That's how you create a meritocracy, and it works much better than a plutocracy.

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45559349)

Frankly, most people shouldn't go to college. It's simply unnecessary a grand majority of the time, and trash attending college causes colleges to dumb themselves down. The only thing we need to fix are piece of shit employers who won't hire people because they don't have pieces of paper.

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45559399)

I'd agree with you except for your misunderstanding of "trash". "Trash" are people with an unwarranted lack of respect for others (often in an attempt to compensate for their inadequacies), rather than those without the best academic ability.

Re:Thanks for giving up on poor students (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about a year ago | (#45560337)

Maybe higher education really won't work for everyone,

It's possible, ya know. Just because we want it to, that's not a magical guarantee that it can.

you have a lot of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558627)

udacity posting a news blurb without identifying exactly WTF 'udacity' is - /-tardism seems rampant in the editorial dept., eh?

International Correspondence Schools 2.0 (2)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#45558637)

Vocational education by correspondence has a long history. There was a big boom in it a century ago. Popular Mechanics, for 1920: [hathitrust.org] "Learn the automobile trade at home - spare times" - Dyke's Correspondence School of Motoring.

International Correspondence Schools [wikipedia.org] was established in 1890, and they're still in business. For decades, they had ads in Popular Mechanics, Popular Electronics, etc. By 1906 total enrollments reached 900,000. The dropout rates were high; only one in six made it past the first third of the material in a course. Only 2.6% of students who began a course finished it. Udacity had stats like that at times.

"The regular technical school or college aims to educate a man broadly; our aim, on the contrary, is to educate him only along some particular line." - Clarke, "The Correspondence School", 1906

"I'd aspired to give people a profound education--to teach them something substantial, but the data was at odds with this idea." ... "At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment." - Thrun, 2013

Not much has changed.

Re:International Correspondence Schools 2.0 (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45558805)

Pending the invention of strong AI (which will certainly revolutionize 'individualized instruction'; but also sort of make all non-recreational human effort irrelevant...), it's difficult to imagine what would provide the change in kind, cheap, remote, delivery of actually-not-lousy education, rather than incremental changes in the degree of difficulty and cost of just delivering information from Point A to Point B.

We've demonstrated, at length, that mere information delivery is well within the scope of technology, and we've steadily brought a few non-text media types into the fold and vastly reduced the cost and latency. At the same time, though, those improvements have done dishearteningly little to solve the problem that we actually care about...

Re:International Correspondence Schools 2.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45559233)

MOOCs do offer interesting opportunities in analyzing student answers to determine exactly what their misunderstandings are and what to tell them (or what questions to ask them) to best help them. But that might qualify as an incremental improvement.

Re:International Correspondence Schools 2.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45562089)

From what I've seen, this claim is purely theoretical/PR only. Having tracked one UDacity MOOC in particular very closely (which claimed exactly this), the only changes they've made in the past year have been in response to very public media criticism, not any fine-tuning based on student input. And really, the whole value proposition (to the producer) of the MOOC is to be a fire-and-forget operation, not to maintain teaching staff or refinement over time.

Re:International Correspondence Schools 2.0 (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45566069)

I have seen a few instances of this concept being actually true; but only in (computer assisted) old-and-busted-legacy-education.

I did some contracting on a couple of educational software implementation projects for a school system. One math, one music. In the math case, the software maintained an account for each student and (once told the general level and area to work with) would proceed to pose the student problems, keeping track of accuracy and speed, and adjusting the difficulty of future problems accordingly. It also crunched and pretty-printed the data for the teachers. Fundamentally, nothing that flash cards weren't doing slightly less efficiently since forever, and the software was capable of absolutely nothing useful if a given student was really having difficulty (except making the fact obvious to the teacher so they could do something about it and get a special education person involved if necessary). Within it's scope, though, it was better than flashcards at hitting the 'stuff you need work on; but aren't just beating your head against the wall on' bracket, and it made it easy to ID students with issues, sometimes even the conceptual areas they were particularly weak in, and get them the relevant assistance.

The music one was a bit more sophisticated. It came with a large library of pieces for which it was capable, once given the student's instrument type, of playing any neccessary accompaniment and of recording the student's playing. At it's most basic, this provided an easy mechanism for allocating and collecting 'practice X, Y, and Z for Tuesday' style assignments, since the recordings could be automatically collected, if desired, by the teacher the student's account was associated with. The more sophisticated capability was the ability to analyze the student's play and identify and score the degree of deviation from the correct output across an entire piece. Very neat to watch and also allowed convenient identification of students with weaker or stronger grasp of a piece (Not trivial if you want one music teacher to cover a zillion students. 1-to-1 listening is trivial for a competent music teacher; but finding time to do 90+ sessions of that, at least once a week, while also teaching them something new? Machines have their virtues...) and could show the student (graphically, note by note) their performance on the piece.

In both cases, the software would have been of dubious utility, especially for the hard cases, which it was pretty much only useful for identifying, not remediating; but computers can definitely do good-enough-and-far-more-comprehensive-than-you'd-hire-the-faculty-for high speed analysis of student performance.

I'm unconvinced by their ability to do much short of throwing additional drills at you (barring nontrivial further development of rather hairy problem areas) if you aren't getting it; so both programs would have been a total cock-up without the existing faculty in the loop, except for the strongest students who had the least use for them anyway (vs. almost-as-good flashcards and sitting down for piano practice customs); but very fast feedback was something that they could do, and did do. Probably still do, unless they've let them bitrot...

the traditional education system needs change (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45558651)

the traditional education system needs change

“The older college system is not for all, and some people learn better on their own. It’s an antiquated system, especially in IT.”

“Schools that are based around 2 years of intensive, hands-on IT training are much better equipped than those spending on English or composition classes. That’s how you can be more flexible and keep up with the industry. Even awarding badges would make the system more relevant.”

Re:the traditional education system needs change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558695)

I attended an education conference where a bunch of regional colleges invited employers to talk about "The problem of getting more viable IT graduates into the field". The colleges had no answers, only excuses. "We aren't vocational schools, employers just need to step up and offer more internships". Employers on the other hand said they weren't interested in interns who couldn't provide any value whatsoever because they didn't have any knowledge of the tools and processes that are in use in the IT enterprise.

Then some professors started talking about how it takes 3 years (!) to get a course approved and into the classroom. And that's where I pointed out that in many IT areas, especially web, whatever it was you were planning to teach is already obsolete.

IT jobs at typical companies is far better off being trained under a vocational or master/apprentice model than it is taught at a 4 year university. We need PHDs to make us fancy languages and tools, but in the day to day business of IT the computer science degree is damn near useless.

How do I know? I train a lot of people to be software developers. I have "fixed" CS grads and made them employable. I've taken lots of Fine Arts majors and turned them into great programmers (better job, better career). The degree has absolutely zero value as an indicator of ability to work in IT.

Don't get an education for work, get one for life. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45558721)

These days you don't go to a university to get your universal education. You go to a university to get a specific education to help you make money. It won't prepare you to be a capable member of a democracy: thats what high-school is for. Thats where you learn your history and such even if its not your primary area of study.

This however is a bit of a problem: people leaving high school in the US don't know enough statistics to understand or reform our politics. They can't evaluate scientific studies. They don't know enough history/psychology to understand the significance of our wars and surveillance.

No one thinks about the important social issues: Is jail punishment? Deterrent? protection from criminals? An attempt to reform and reintegrate criminals? If someone is inherently violent (genetic predisposition / mentally ill) do they deserve harsher sentences, or more lenient? Why is money you get by having money (capital gains) taxed less than money you get form working? Why are there people who make more money in a year than I'd make in 500 years? Are they really worth it? Why do we pay the NSA to intentionally mislead cryptographers while claiming education is a good thing? Why does the government fund research? (Hint: if it was to increase knowledge they would require access to the result for everyone). How is it that a democracy can elect a congress with such a horrible approval rating? Can we fix that?

Everyone argues over what the constitution means, not what we think should be in it. There is a difference between what it means, and what I want in the Constitution.

Perhaps I'm ridiculously lucky to have time to learn about lots of fields not related to my work. I understand not everyone can afford to put in the time to question what we want from our country, but perhaps everyone should have time for it. I want real universities, and I want them open to all, for free. I want universal healthcare and coverage of other basic needs so people can take off time to think and learn. I want a country where we don't have to fear unemployment.

What is the purpose of government for you? Do your political views help accomplish that? How would you change the Constitution?

For me, government provides security. A good government would make me feel safe: if I lose my job, if I get sick, if I get injured, I want to know that I will be fine, as well as my family. I want to feel safe from criminals, and know my savings won't vanish, and know if I live a long time, I won't suffer horribly as I run out of said savings. I want the security that I'll be safe now, and my children will be safe in the future. I want to know I can have privacy, and that my children will have it as well. I want to know we will have a safe environment to live in, and be accepted for who we are. These are all securities, and they are what I want from a government.

If you don't know what you want from a government, do me a favor and get a real education: don't just work your life away. Your vote is worth more than your contribution to the GDP.

How do I try and accomplish this? I push for political reform. I want a more representative government that better resists political parties and allows minority groups to get representation: I want to revise the constitution to give us a true proportional parliament. I could go on and on about my various plans for fixing up ISP and cell network messes, privacy problems, electoral algorithms, and cryptographic schemes. I put a lot of time and effort into learning, and applying it outside of work. I only spend 40 hours a week working: I spend 168 hours a week as an american citizen and as a human being: that is far more important. Don't get an education for work, get an education for life.

Re:Don't get an education for work, get one for li (2)

qbzzt (11136) | about a year ago | (#45558793)

When you have close to zero assets and close to zero skills, you can't afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars for general education. General education is great, but being able to support the family you'll one day have is more important.

Universities could get away with general education when they were cheaper, and before that when they were elite institutions for people who would inherit a large business anyway.

If employers like this emphasis (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#45558767)

Pulling off the "if employers like this emphasis" part would be interesting in itself. Attempting to found a new vocationally-oriented, for-profit university specializing in technology is not a new idea. That's the ITT model, and several of their competitors. But these degrees have never gotten much traction among employers. They aren't worthless, per se, but they aren't anywhere near the value of a regular CS degree from a respected university.

LOL (4, Insightful)

dcollins (135727) | about a year ago | (#45558859)

"If employers like this emphasis, it might be a bigger threat to the academic status quo than offering traditional college courses."

Please. Here is a list of technologies that did NOT result in the demise of college education:

- Books mass-produced on the printing press.
- Correspondence courses in the early 1900's, engaged by millions of hopeful learners at the time.
- Radio or television programming.
- Software-based learning from the 1960's onward.
- Online courses from the 1990's onward.
- MOOC in the 2010's onward.

I really don't understand the Slashdot mass delusion that this or any technology could mean the death of colleges in any short- to medium time frame.

in the past we had more trades / apprenticeship an (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45558939)

in the past we had more trades / apprenticeship and traditional college courses was not for all.

Now more people are going to traditional college courses and they have been dumbed down a long with turning out people loaded with skill gaps.

the ITT's and devry's are kind of roped in the traditional college courses and can maybe be better off if they did not need to give out traditional college degrees and give out badges.

Re:LOL (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about a year ago | (#45559003)

Well, college tuition is dangerously high, and rising. A disruptive technology like MOOCs could introduce some competition and deflate the tuition bubble before it bursts and torpedoes our economy. So a lot of people want to see MOOCs succeed. The "death" of colleges is hyperbole, but they could certainly do with less demand.

MOOC for what? (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year ago | (#45558979)

If I understand correctly TFA, MOOCs are not useful to students, no company found how to make money on them, and universities offer some of them just by fear someone else would and make them irrelevant.

Is that the next bubble ready to explode?

Re:MOOC for what? (1)

dcollins (135727) | about a year ago | (#45559239)

Yes indeed. The only sad thing is that they're not publicly traded so there's no opportunity to short-sell them.

Re:MOOC for what? (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year ago | (#45564625)

But there is a good point: with the subprime crisis, people that went banckrupt lost their home and the home's value colapsed, which means both the people and the banks were harmed. Here when the student go bankrupt, the bank will not be able to takes the acquired knowledge away, which means only the bank will be harmed.

Dupe Article (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year ago | (#45559071)

The editors must be still a bit hung over from the one-two punch of Thanksgiving and then crazy deal-chasing on Black Friday.

http://slashdot.org/story/13/08/18/219252/big-mooc-on-campus-georgia-techs-6600-ms-in-cs [slashdot.org]

DOA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45559073)

Dead On Arrival.

Sebastian Thrun has demonstrated for all to see his great misunderstanding of 'Education.'

Sebastian Thrun is DOA at the nearest hospital to him in about xxx [redacted for InterPol Security Reasons] seconds UTC.

Nighty nighty. Don't wake upy. :-D

[yes that was ascii code for those who can read ... i.e. read]

Udacity is not providing college level education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45559657)

There are several major learning platforms: Coursera, edX, Khan Academy and Udacity. Udacity is consistently the worse of them. Even the bad courses from the others are better than what you get from Udacity.

Udacity is getting a lot of their "courses" through industry partnership. In practice the courses on Udacity are just elaborate ads for the company making the course.

For examples:
-Introduction to Parallel Programming (https://www.udacity.com/course/cs344) is an ad by Nvidia for CUDA.
-Interactive 3D Graphics (https://www.udacity.com/course/cs291) is an ad by Autodesk.
-HTML5 Game Development (https://www.udacity.com/course/cs255) is an ad by Google for Chrome. They teach bad practices like making web pages Chrome-only.

The net result is employers do not take Udacity seriously. It is not suprising Sebastian Thrun has trouble making partnerships with serious Universities.

Opportunity Control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45562543)

Continuous post-secondary education for employment in non-regulated fields smacks of "paying rent to avoid wage deflation".

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