The fundamental understanding of quality online learning in higher education was mostly lost or ignored in the MOOC hype.
Unlike the invention of online music stores or the steam-powered ship, the journey is just as important as the destination when it comes to learning. The ultimate aim of higher (as opposed to vocational) education is to transform student thinking and ways of being.
Getting there faster and cheaper short-changes everyone.
If we cannot give graduates the solid critical and creative thinking skills they need, they will be ill-equipped to deal with the immensely complex economic, social and environmental problems we face in the coming decades.
Lessons for Udacity
The key to providing quality higher education in the digital age lies somewhere in between the technology devotees, educational researchers, teachers, developers and learning scientists.
Sound, evidence-based innovation is not to be found in the provocations of the likes of Thrun or Christensen alone. The business model does not operate in isolation from the quality of the service.
It would appear that despite their exceptional expertise in their disciplines, few of the loudest voices touting MOOCs are qualified or experienced in learning theory or educational technology. This includes Thrun and Christensen, who have no formal qualifications in education or the learning sciences.