The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Udacity Pulls Math Course over Quality Concerns
Udacity, a start-up firm offering massive open online
courses (MOOCs) taught by “world-renowned university instructors,” recently
decided to cancel its Logic and Discrete Mathematics course because it didn’t
live up to the quality standards set by the company.
Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity, told The Chronicle of Higher Education in an e-mailthat while the entire class was recorded and edited,
it didn’t meet the “quality bar” during the firm’s internal testing. Thrun did
not say what that quality bar was, how many students had signed up, or whether
the course would be offered in the future, but did praise the work done on the
project by Jonathan D. Farley, associate professor of computing and information
science, University of Maine at Orono.
“We want to make clear this disappointment is in no
way a reflection on Jonathan, but on the Udacity team and the constraints we
put on ourselves,” Thrun wrote.
Farley said he spent 45 hours recording the lectures
and three hours of preparation for each hour recorded, but he also agreed with
Udacity’s decision to pull the plug on the course.
“I blundered when recording some of the logic, and
the camera was not on,” he said. “And also some of the mathematical proofs
needed to be explained in a different way. It’s a totally different way of
teaching because you have to figure out how you can reach 100,000 people.”
MOOCs make headlines for offering an online
alternative to traditional educational programs, often free or practically no
charge, but critics remain. As one commentator to the Chronicle article
suggested, “Quality control is particularly important at this stage, when so
many critical eyes are looking at online curricula,” so Udacity’s proactive
approach could be the kind of move that may silence some detractors.