Online Learning Pitfalls Underscored by Woz U Troubles

Woz U, the online learning platform endorsed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, is again under fire.

In a new CBS report, one former employee (an “enrollment counselor” charged with signing people up for the program) says the program’s management has been pushing sales above all. In retrospect, he likens signing up for Woz U to “rolling the dice” with online learning and a career choice.

Also speaking to CBS, Woz U president Chris Coleman acknowledged errors in course curriculum, and said the platform was implementing a system to catch those errors. He also said Steve Wozniak reviews curriculum, and denied students were pressured to enroll.

The “curriculum errors” Coleman alluded to were mentioned in the CBS report, with one student claiming there were typos in the code that prevented it from compiling. That student also said one of his courses didn’t have an instructor. CBS poked through the Woz U Slack channel and found other complaints of typos in code, out-of-date lectures (pre-recorded), and unqualified “mentors.”

“I felt like this was a $13,000 e-book,” the student told CBS.

When Woz U launched in October 2017, we sounded the alarm. Things just didn’t stack up; students weren’t told what a course might cost, and Woz U’s affiliation with existing schools and online learning portals now seems like a means to legitimize itself, leading students to sign up for loans to complete the program.

In our original article, the comments section is filled with people claiming Woz U was just not worth it. One commenter claimed an online “help-out meeting” is only 30 minutes long (and may be where the aforementioned ‘mentors’ come into play). They called Woz U “a scam, in short.”

Another commenter deemed it “the worst coding program ever.”

Steve Wozniak Woz U
Steve Wozniak’s new Woz U platform begs a lot of questions

Woz U Shares the Online Learning Blame

The optics for Woz U as a platform are bad. It’s unpolished, and students are voicing that they feel ripped off.

But those criticisms aren’t limited to Woz U. Many online programs use peer mentorship to help you along, sometimes de-emphasizing “real” teachers in the process, and videos with high production values aren’t easy to update (plus, splicing content in can make footage feel patched-together and unprofessional), meaning you might end up viewing something hopelessly out of date.

These are complaints we’ve heard about two other major online learning platforms: Udacity and Treehouse. Both offer longer courses on various disciplines, and suffer from a slower turnaround for updating videos. These pain-points are especially noticeable when a language changes or an IDE gets an update.

This was a major factor in our recommending Udemy, which is an open platform, for online learning. We specifically said: “We have been impressed by the speed at which instructors update curriculums and get new courses on fresh technologies published.”

But Udemy is no standout here. To wit, many developers feel they can push out a course quickly to capture early interest in a technology or language; in many cases, the curriculum is just poorly crafted. Many great instructors prepare courses quickly, but it’s easy to stumble into a bad one (thankfully, you’re not dropping $13k for a Udemy course).

This all speaks to the broader pitfalls of for-profit education. Most in tech will tell you a portfolio showcasing your experience matters a lot more than an informal (or perhaps even formal) education, and these ‘schools’ are meant to get someone who’s starting at zero to the point where they can begin to create a body of actual work. We’d caution anyone looking to invest a large sum of money on their education to do the diligence and find a reputable, well-reviewed course. So far, Woz U simply isn’t offering that.

3 Responses to “Online Learning Pitfalls Underscored by Woz U Troubles”

  1. Sorry. Anyone who would pay $10,000.00+ for an online course probably deserves what they get! If you want top-drawer, top flight STEM education go to a top-drawer school – MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Colorado School of Mines. You can also get similar education in Engineering, Computer Science etc at most major universities.

    If you are interested in improving your existing skills there are many online organizations that offer very good courses in almost any topic. Kahn Academy provides almost a complete Math education for free. I have taken many courses from Udemy and found them to be very good. You could take every course they offer for far less that $10,000.00! Most online programs are not designed to make you a total expert. They are for enhancing your skills. They are for introducing you to a wide variety of technology.

    And many courses offered by Coursera and all the MOOC’S offer many very good courses to enhancing your skills. Also I have learned to use Photoshop at a reasonable level just by watching the hundreds uTube videos.

    Enjoy learning.


    • Bruh Oyshter

      With a name like Woz U, it’s easy to fool people who are looking to get the skills that will get them a higher paying job to think that it’s worth the $10k price. It does surprise me that the AG’s in the different states they operate in aren’t investigating Woz U.