The big knock on massive open online courses, or MOOCs, is that while thousands of people may register for them, only a sliver of students ever successfully complete them. MOOC retention rates are appallingly bad. In many cases, just five percent of people who sign up stick with a course and pass it.
Sebastian Thrun was instrumental in building Google’s self-driving car and Glass projects, and helped launch the company’s Google X wing to spearhead “moonshot” projects like Project Loon. But, as he explained on this week’s Structure Show podcast, Thrun’s latest endeavor, online-education startup Udacity, might have an even bigger impact on the world than his futuristic technologies. The interview covers the promises and limitations of online education — from the misconception that massive open online courses, or MOOCs, should be considered replacements to traditional university educations, to the importance of training all students in the ways of data. Here are the highlights, but anyone interested in the evolution of online education will want to hear the whole thing.