Quote of the Day: Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian Thrun
Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of Udacity, provider of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) on the eroding monopoly of traditional colleges and universities in credentialing higher education:

The common denominator is that there is an interest in finding credentials that don’t require a student to buy the entire degree.

Big employers such as AT&T and Google are helping to design and fund the low-cost courses, reports the Wall Street Journal, opening the door for students to earn inexpensive credentials in the job market. Meanwhile the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in partnership with edX, is starting a course sequence called the XSeries. For up to $700 students will be able to take a test and earn a “verified certificate” in subjects like computer science and supply-chain management. Companies such as Yahoo Inc. have begun reimbursing employees who take certified MOOCs.

Message to university boards: Be afraid. Be very afraid. After a decade of jacking up tuition and fees remorselessly and without conscience, you have made higher education unaffordable for many young Americans. Employers and their would-be employees don’t want you, don’t need you. Your value proposition is shot. Your entrenched interests and bloated bureaucracies will prevent you from responding effectively to the challenge. Many of you are doomed. And no one will miss you when you’re gone.


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6 responses to “Quote of the Day: Sebastian Thrun”

  1. I’m less convinced and here’s why. First, the for-profit companies are going to jump on this – better, quicker, more nimble than the ponderous Universities who, more like are going to offer a “LITE” version of it BECAUSE they have something the for-profit companies don’t have – BIG TIME SPORTS and I see no slackening in the demand to attend big time sports schools so what should they change if they can offer LITE MOOG and still maintain their regular enrollments?

    the quote: ” The common denominator is that there is an interest in finding credentials that don’t require a student to buy the entire degree.”

    The reality: employer to applicant: ” Now did you ACTUALLY attend the University and have a diploma or do you have just a certificate”?

    What is going to be the difference between a University “certificate” and a for-profit company “certificate”?

    Bonus Observation: on the wall of your Doctors office – there is a framed “credential” that says that “Dr X has duly passed the UVA MOOG Certificate Curricula and is hereby awarded the MOOG Certificate in General Medicine”.


  2. Oh – and don’t say software is “different”- not with computerized laser and autonomous vehicles and other modern devices that literally can endanger your life if not done right.

    do you want a guy with a “certificate” designing your airbag or the MRI scanning your brain?

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Larry is right but doesn’t go far enough. Bacon is flacking for MOOCs and wants to ratchet back classical college education. He wants to demote higher education into some kind of input unit, sort of like a military jobs classification or a training level for a scuba diver. These have their place, but are better suited for trade-specific, lower-ranking jobs.

    What I can’t figure is while he wants to demote higher ed for just about everyone, he wants to privatize U.Va. for the elite.

    Go figure..

  4. well.. I don’t think MOOG is going to go away but I do think the whole area of “credentialing” is going to be “disrupted” and re-questioned with MOOG.

    For instance, does one think a guy/gal who designs a website is the same as a guy/gal designing software that lives literally depend on ?

    Same credentials?

    Remember – just about everything from phones, to cars to METRO trains to medical imaging, even surgery is controlled/guided by software these days.

    there is a view – yet another sound-bite view that software is something anyone can do with a few weeks of “instruction” and all it takes is one guy/gal not a team of specialists – for instance – the function known as verification and validation or even the even less understood but more critical – configuration management.

    everyone seems to be an armchair expert these days whether it’s climate science or software development… someone who is a PHD and has spent 30 years in Climate Science is, in one fell swoop, reduced to a lying and corrupt zealot… by “armchair scientists” whose only credential are consulting right wing internet caves – looking over his “work”.

    It’s really gotten bad….. people no longer actually “vett” information.. and worse they think – fairly complicated things – can be done by anyone who can take a few weeks of a “certificate” course.

  5. DJRippert Avatar

    One hidebound industry after another has fallen prey to technological advance. The song remains the same:

    1. Some entrepreneur dreams up a pretty half-assed, technology assisted alternative to a traditional market.

    2. The entrepreneur gets a little interest but the traditionalist nay-sayers come out of the woodwork to proclaim the new technology unworthy.

    3. All over Silicon Valley, Cambridge, Austin – even downtown DC …. antennae go up. What is this new thing? Might it work? What approaches haven’t been tried? What new business models might work?

    4. Stealth companies form. They are funded and have employees but they have no web site, no marketing department. They have names like Acme Labs. They are quietly building out the new technologies and submitting the patent paperwork.

    5. Years go by.

    6. All of the sudden it seems like a burst of innovation. New companies are emerging, new technologies are appearing, new business models are being tried.

    7. The old guard in the traditional industries pack up the cubicle desks into brown boxes and go look for something else.

    8. The nay-sayers claim that they knew this would happen all along.

    MOOCs are presently in Step 4.

  6. Oh I totally believe MOOCs will advance but I also predict it’s going to engender a serious re-examination of exactly what “credential” means.

    I also predict that not a single brain surgeon or airline pilot will result from pure MOOC-only curriculum.

    How do you admit to medical school – someone who has only taken MOOC courses?

    questions. questions. got answers?

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