Fail Fast, Not Spectacularly

Career College Central summary:

  • MOOC stalwart Udacity announced in January that it would partner with San Jose State University (SJSU) to serve 100 students — half from SJSU and half from nearby community colleges and high schools — in three remedial courses online.
  • The results from this experiment emerged recently, and they were not spectacular. Whereas in traditional remedial classes at SJSU, reportedly 74 percent of students were able to pass the course, in the online version from Udacity, no more than 51 percent were able to pass any of the three classes. What was widely celebrated, is now being widely derided.
  • Michael Horn, a contributor to Forbes, writes that "citing this as a failure based on the comparison from previous remedial courses is a bit strange given that half of the students were not SJSU students, but from other community colleges, high schools, and the military."
  • Horn suggests it’s worth remembering that disruptive innovations often start as not as good as the existing products and services. He writes this is why it is important that they not compete with those offerings at the outset, but instead compete against nonconsumption, where the alternative is literally nothing at all so that the disruption is infinitely better.
  • Once a disruptive innovation gains a foothold, it is then able to improve to be able to serve more demanding users. Serving high school students would seem to be one of those areas of nonconsumption from the perspective of SJSU. So, too, would be using online learning to expand capacity to the hundreds of thousands of students on waiting lists at California colleges who have no other alternative at the moment.

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