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.