Friday, May 4, 2012

Udacity, edX, Coursera - - The Future of Free

Combine technology, world class teachers, high-quality content, and free - - you end up with 44,000 students in a class at Stanford called Probabilistic Graphical Models taught by Dr. Daphine Koller (class details).  Keller, a 43-year-old Israeli who graduated from college in Jerusalem at age 17 before attending Stanford for her Ph.D. is engaged in one of the most ambitious projects of her career.  Koller won a MacArthur Fellowship for her work in artificial intelligence.  She and her colleague Andrew Ng last fall founded Coursera, a company that has created one of the world's most advanced free online learning efforts.  Key points of the Coursera revolution - -
  • 250,000 people in 172 countries signed up for the first three computer science offerings.
  • Classes involve recorded lectures and quizzes in which the video pauses to let students answer questions.
  • They get immediate feedback and the program automatically grades their responses.
  • Another feature allows students to submit questions, which are presented to other students who help select the most relevant ones.  Those are then sent on to the professor.
  • No official course credit - - you get a statement of accomplishment.
  • Students range from teens to grandparents - - the smart will get smarter for free - - the convergence of recreation and education.
Coursera is just the beginning.  Harvard and MIT announced this week that they are combining efforts on their own free online course platform - - edX.  Those who complete the courses will receive a grade and certificate of completion.  EdX is expected to offer its first five courses this fall.  The edX project will include not only engineering courses, but also humanities courses, in which essay's might be graded through crowd-sourcing or assessed with natural-language software (you can see where this is going, these platforms provide an excellent environment for researching teaching methods and technologies).

Finally, you have Udacity, also from Stanford.  Professor Sebastian Thrun of AI fame recently taught a class with 160,000 students.  Udacity has attracted more than 200,000 students to the six courses currently offered.


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