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The changing face of education

“Frustrated that his (and fellow Googler Peter Norvig’s) Stanford artificial intelligence class only reached 200 students, they put up a website offering an online version. They got few takers. Then he mentioned the online course at a conference with 80 attendees and 80 people signed up. On a Friday, he sent an offer to the mailing list of a top AI association. On Saturday morning he had 3,000 sign-ups—by Monday morning, 14,000. In the midst of this, there was a slight hitch, Mr. Thrun says. “I had forgotten to tell Stanford about it. There was my authority problem. Stanford said ‘If you give the same exams and the same certificate of completion [as Stanford does], then you are really messing with what certificates really are. People are going to go out with the certificates and ask for admission [at the university] and how do we even know who they really are?’ And I said: I. Don’t. Care.”

Via Instapundit. He was quoting from an article by the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, such “remote learning” is not quite as new as it might appear: even the Open University system in the UK has been going for more than 40 years. But the internet and related technologies are accelerating developments in this vein. Given all the issues surrounding the need to cut the cost of the public sector and improve standards and teaching, anything that can drive change in a better direction is a good thing. I wish this “education entrepreneur” well. If the best minds in Silicon Valley – and elsewhere – get involved, then this is one of those developments that will be arguably more significant than any amount of public service tinkering that usually makes more noise in the news.

Of course, his supreme blog highness, Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds, has been pushing the whole theme of there being a higher education “bubble” for some time, but being the kind of person he is, does not just complain. He likes to pounce on examples of how to move education in a saner direction.

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2 comments to The changing face of education

  • Chuckles

    Higher education is much exercised about this at the moment, bit damned if they do, and damned if they don’t really.
    MIT has just completed their pilot 6.002x electronics and circuits online course. One in which they explicitly announced up front that a passing grade would earn a certificate from MIT testifying to that fact.
    Over 154 000 people signed up. and over 7 000 received a certificate.
    MIT have now partnered with Harvard in a project called edX to expand the concept.

  • David Crawford

    With so many gatekeepers and middlemen, there’s so much more blood still to be spilled over next decade or two. Good. As someone who was very ill-served by a state-run education system, I can’t wait to watch the corpses pile up. The biggest problem will be the gatekeepers and middlemen digging in their heals legislatively. You can almost hear the mewling and whining now.