In the middle of breathless hype about MOOCs' disruptive potential, Udacity and San Jose State University offered a set of online courses earlier this year. The results are in, and they don't look good: [San Jose State University] Suspends Online Classes After More Than Half the Students Fail. Will Oremus adds:
Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun ... told the AP that the failure rates in the five classes ranged from 56 to 76 percent. Nor was the course material exactly rocket science—the five classes were in elementary statistics, college algebra, entry-level math, introduction to programming, and introduction to psychology.
Thrun did note that 83 percent of students had completed the classes, a far higher rate than is typical for the free, open courses that have come to be known as MOOCs. Why so many failed is not fully clear, though the AP cites “officials” saying that a lot of the students who signed up had little college experience or were working full-time while taking the classes.
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Update: See also: Udacity Project on 'Pause' at Inside Higher Ed.