e-Learning Popularity Contests

Hi Jon K.,
I am writing you to ask a personal favor. I am trying to break the student record for the largest online class ever taught with my new class “Intro to Statistics“, which will begin June 25th. ¬†Sign up, forward this e-mail to your friends and family and let’s set a new record!
We’ve also launched a challenge for high school students. ¬†Winners will get a trip to Stanford University and I will be delighted to give a tour of my lab!
Sebastian Thrun, Professor
Hi Sebastian:
This is not a personal favor. I’m certain that, yes, you appreciate everyone that signs up for your lectures, videos and learning and believe that you are helping. In some ways, I think you are. I regret to inform you that I will not help you reach your goal of the “biggest” online class. I’m not interested in enrollments, I’m interested in learning. Lots of people enrolled in Udacity, lots did in fact learn. To reduce what you’re doing to a base contest to be the biggest is the sort of thing that I expect from arms races, dick measuring contests and other bigger is better attitudes. I learned some things in the building a search engine course. The biggest thing I learned was that it didn’t really work for me. I did well enough to earn a piece of paper. It was not, however, lifelong learning. Six months or so after the basics of Python, I don’t recall much about the syntax or structures. I don’t recall the reason why logic was implemented in a certain way.
You know what I do know? I recall vividly working with several of my friends trying to work out HTML in 1997. Small group, working together learning from each other. Oh yeah, we were on the Internet (newsgroups in fact) in different cities, facilitated by technology. Lets face it, more people means that you’re more likely to find some people with passion for your subject. And I’ll be big and say, maybe Python isn’t my passion. Massive distributive learning may not be a really beneficial thing. If you could find a way to make your massive course smaller, then I could see being interested. I’m sure I’m not alone.