Two years ago, massive open online courses seemed to be everywhere. The wave of Internet-enabled disruption that had swept through the post office and the book store had now arrived at the quad, threatening the existence of America’s higher education system. Two private startups—Udacity and Coursera—and non-profit EdX were going to disrupt education by letting students “take the world's best courses, online, for free.”
Now, as another school year lurches into gear, those companies have a meek record. Udacity tried replacing intro courses at San Jose State; it ended in failure. Coursera has begun to focus more on international markets. Where they used to speak of tech’s potential to change the classroom, venture capitalists now laud tech’s altering of city life.
Why is that? Why has the promised boom in educational technology failed to appear—and why was the technology that did appear not very good?
Paul Franz has a guess as to why. Franz taught in Hawaii before, in 2011, researching ed tech as a doctoral candidate at Stanford. He’s now a language arts teacher in California. On his Twitter feed Sunday, he gave some reasons why the ed tech buzz seems to have simply disappeared. They mirror my own sentiment, that education is a uniquely difficult challenge, both technically and socially, and that its difficulty confounds attempts to “disrupt” it.