MOOC mania meets the sober reality of education

Politicians who saw MOOCs as a means to cut the cost of higher education are having to think again after two high-profile initiatives in California recently came to a crashing halt, The Huffington Post reports. The more publicized trainwreck, though arguably the lesser significant of the two, was the partnership between San Jose State University and for-profit MOOC provider Udacity, initiated last January in a blaze of publicity by Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun and California governor Jerry Brown. The public-private agreement called for Udacity to support three remedial classes developed and run by professors at San Jose State. The potential prize was big: The course fee was a mere $150 per student — covered by foundation grants for the initial trial — a fraction of the cost of a regular course. But when the results came in, the euphoria quickly evaporated. The passing rates were 29 percent, 44 percent and 51 percent, respectively, much lower than hoped for. As a result, the university and Udacity have announced that no further such courses would be offered until they had analyzed what went wrong. To be fair, the project was hugely ambitious.

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