Well, there it is folks. After two years of hype, breathless proclamations about how Udacity will transform higher education, Silicon Valley blindness to existing learning research, and numerous articles/interviews featuring Sebastian Thrun, Udacity has failed.
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. No one will do more damage to MOOCs as a concept than Thrun now that he realizes how unfounded his statements actually were.
Amazingly, after Udacity and Thurn’s “bull in a China shop” run through higher education, he proclaims that he has seen the light: “”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…It was a painful moment.”"
The Udacity pivot, showcased (a latin term meaning “spin”) as a good thing in the Fast Company article, is the equivalent of Obama doing an Affordable Care is Working media tour. Make no mistake – 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.