In the Freaknomics blog, I found a post about Stanford professor, Sebastian Thurn, resigned from his teaching role to run startup, Udacity, which holds university classes for free. Thurn taught a class of 160,000 on artificial intelligence. The experience taught the professor that he could craft a course with the interactive tools of the Web that recreated the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring, he said. Now Thurn plans on teaching a class of 500,000 about building a search engine for free.

 Imagine a university education that is free and accessible by anyone with a computer and an internet connection. Now open your eyes and look into the world that is today. Through Thurn’s new education medium he is able to deliver a Stanford education value for free, that is also accessible by anyone in the world. I believe that this could throw a curveball into the education world.

Thurn held a discussion on the class he held at Stanford, which featured testimonials from students all over the world. The testimonials mostly contained stories of how grateful people were to be able to study at a higher level for free. Past students also mentioned that the experience was effective and that they enjoyed the online classroom environment. Thurn even went into detail on how 200 students at Stanford took the class in person, and after a couple of weeks only 30 showed up and the rest preferred taking the class online. The students preferred taking the class online as they can go at their own speed and take the class during a time that works best for them.

 The one drawback I noticed is that there is currently no actual degree for taking the courses. The previous course hosted by Stanford sent a certificate to individuals that completed the course stating completion and their grade. I’m not sure how companies would respond to an individual that states they took a free course but have no degree from a university. Despite this one problem I still see how Udacity can be very beneficial to many around the world. It can teach do-it-yourself individuals to write code and better themselves in what the curriculum entails.

 With University prices on the rise it is becoming difficult for many people to afford a university education. With free courses it would give people with no means of receiving an education an ability to further their learning. I welcome this new medium and it will be interesting to see how it evolves in the future.

Original Blog – http://www.freakonomics.com/2012/01/30/classrooms-with-500000-students/

Other Sources- http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/stanford-professor-gives-up-teaching-position-hopes-to-reach-500000-students-at-online-start-up/35135

http://singularityhub.com/2012/01/28/sebastian-thrun-aims-to-revolutionize-university-education-with-udacity/

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6 responses »

  1. Jordi says:

    I can imagine delivering content to such a large class. I can imagine a series of exercises through the tools you describe. I am skeptical about “the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring”. I wonder what he means.

    Greater access to high quality teaching does seem laudable. If faculty and/or universities resist, perhaps it will say as much about the perceived value of an education being the “brand” of the school’s academic reputation as it does teaching quality. In other words, what a Bucknell may feel threatened by is not the recreation of what we teach, but the implication that it is an economic substitution for our degree. But if Dr. On-Line Stanford offers the same or better as the content of our classrooms, what will we say we are offering? High school 2? Finishing school for the next generation of elites?

    Tough questions to face. But face them, we must. Speak as a jedi, I will. Yoda-ordi out.

  2. brookeparker16 says:

    Although I see the problems that a “free” education faces, it is an extremely important that we take the time to question the rising costs of education. After listening to President Obama’s State of the Union, I began to question it myself. President Obama warned universities that if they failed to curtail the rising costs then they could expect their federal funds to be cut. I would love to see the financials for each college to see whether cuts could be made. Even at Bucknell I’m sure they could make cuts to keep tuition lower. Let’s be serious do we really need flat screen tvs on every floor of the bookstore? However, if they made these cuts would Bucknell then lose its competitive edge? It makes me wonder if part of our tuition is really going to just having the name Bucknell on our degree. I feel like it could be similar to buying brand name products, even if the two products are identical people will pay more for the name.

  3. idalbello says:

    I agree, with rising tution costs and if high quality work from professors start flooding the web, it will be intersting to see where post high school education heads. Will free online degrees be accepted by companies? Or will America continue to value the name on a piece of paper?

  4. Mike says:

    Whether or not you can put a degree behind this emerging online education, this concept will give everyone a more equal opportunity for education. As globalization makes the markets more competitive, a tool like this will aid our growth (especially if used to teach languages). We all know that we can search “how to…” about anything on youtube and receive a quick lesson from some ‘shmo’ that had some free time on his hands. I am happy to see that this concept is emerging for the public to be taught more educational subjects rather than how to build a lego gun.

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