Too Massive to Fail

The Steve Kolowich’s most recent article for the Chronicle of Higher Educationhe speaks with Georgia Tech’s president, G.P. (Bud) Peterson, about their Masters program in Computer Science that delivers a $6600 degree. To quote Ryan Brazell, “it reads like an Onion article.” I’m not sure who’s responsible for letting Peterson talk to the press about this program, but they had better stop and make him go raise some money to clean up this mess 🙂

I have a particular interest in Georgia Tech’s Computer Science graduate program because Mary Washington held the “Minding the Future” event this October to try an counteract some of the over reaction resulting from the MOOC-hype in higher education.  More specifcally, a member of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council  used this Georgia Tech program as an example of how Virginia’s universities had “their heads in the sand.” So, reading this article with the subtext that this program is shaping up to be an unavoidable train wreck was not without some measure of schadenfreude.

But hey, it’s just an experiment, right? A pilot. We gotta take some time to see if this stuff makes sense, and kudos to Georgia Tech for leading the way, right?

Mr. Peterson refuses to even call the Udacity collaboration an experiment. “This is a pilot,” he said in an interview with The Chronicle. “Experiments fail. I’m doing everything I can to make sure this does not fail.”

What? What does this mean, how can a pilot not have the potential to fail? What exactly are you doing to make sure it succeeds?

Georgia Tech’s experiment plays it relatively safe. Because it involves a master’s program, the students will have already earned undergraduate degrees, and many of them already have jobs in the industry. And the students who were admitted have an average undergraduate GPA of 3.58.

OK, so you’re just making sure you have qualified students, which is respectable. But not all that experimental. And I imagine you’re not gonna see the 10,000 students number any time soon that all the hype of this program was centered around.

The inaugural class is also neither massive nor open. The program has admitted 401 students—360 men, 41 women—out of 2,300 candidates.

If 250 students end up enrolling, he [Peterson] said, the university will “approach those 250 as though they’re 2,500.”

“Neither massive or open” is the best thing I’ve read about these corporate MOOCs in a while. So, you have 401 applicants, maybe half of which will enter the program (with a ratio of 9 men to every 1 woman) and you will intentionally treat them as if they are just a number? Am I reading this right? How can this not be tongue-in- cheek. Many have said, including me, that the best thing about MOOCs is that they have effectively legitimized the possibilities of online learning for those in power. On the other hand, the worst part about them is that those in power can say stupid ass shit like this. “I don’t like doing things that fail,” so I got into bed with AT&T and an already defiled Udacity to create a PR bubble that can’t possibly deliver on its promise—a fact which the numbers already demonstrate. You’ve already failed according to your own perverted logic.

What a joke.

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8 Responses to Too Massive to Fail

  1. Matt says:

    The Science major part of me wants to reach through the screen and rip out throats for saying “experiments fail.” Every single time, really? A bunch of people alive today because of experimental medicine are going to be pretty bummed. Oh, and how are the Internets working without electricity that was mastered by conducting…. experiments?

  2. Pretty much everything I do it an experiment. None of it is a failure, even the stuff that failed.

  3. Pingback: Too Massive to Fail | bavatuesdays | Emerging Technologies Centre

  4. Tom says:

    Pilots never fail and I even took out all the airplane pilots who failed breathalyzers.

  5. When “MOOC” means “distance learning like you know, just cheaper”.

    • Reverend says:

      Bryan,
      Exactly, what happened to the intervention of web 2.0 and the possibility to truly rethink scale in higher ed. All just a distant memory for these universities, seemingly. Prop up a good blogging paltform, incentivize your community to share, and the possibilities and implications will be mind blowing. Setup a new fangled LMS that scales and you have done nothing of note.

      • Your insight about MOOCs being the first Web teaching platform blew me away. I think it’s the smartest single observation about MOOCs.

        I fear tv culture is partly to blame. cMOOCs are social media, but xMOOCs resemble television. That appeals to folks over, say, 30 years of age – i.e., those ruling academia. They love the old broadcast paradigm, having grown up marinated in it.
        Ever read Tobias Wolff’s In Pharaoh’s Army? There’s a great story about some US soldiers in Vietnam pursuing an epic quest to score a tv. The Boomer experience as a parable.

        Meanwhile, Siemens, Downes, yourself, et al point out that the Web is different

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