November 24, 2017, 5:12 pm
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Education revolution

EARLY ‘70: A term paper I was made to do at Cornell U. was on jobs that will lose out to future intelligent robots. Conversely, skills that robots can never take over: 1) chefs, 2) dentists, 3) lawyers, etc. But the very first of livelihoods that was seen half a century ago to perish, was 1) classroom teachers. (2. Surgeons!) Today, we can see how foreboding was my college paper on the demise of classroom with a warm-bodied teacher by the blackboard.

Author Thomas L. Friedman wrote about Andrew Ng’s Interactive Online Education Company. Ng, at Stanford University, created Coursera <>.

“I normally teach 400 students. Last semester, 100,000--in an online Coursera, on machine learning. To reach that many students before, I would have had to teach my normal Stanford class for 250 years.”

Friedman writes, excerpted for space: “What is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary. Quality higher education is more acute than ever; in a knowledge economy, getting a higher-education degree is more vital than ever. Thanks to the spread of cyber wireless.... a generation that has grown up on these technologies is learning and interacting with professors online.

“Private companies, like Phoenix, have been offering online degrees for a fee for years. And schools like M.I.T. and Stanford have been offering lectures for free online. 

“Coursera is the next step: A system of testing, grading, student-to-student help, and awarding certificates of completion of a course for under $100. (Sounds like a good deal. Cost at the real-life Stanford is over $80,000 a year.)” 

From Coursera, we learn that they started with 40 courses online, computing to the humanities, offered by professors from Stanford, Princeton, Michigan and the UPenn. An exemplary, articulate, interesting, brilliant teacher on monitor will create more superior pupils that an ill-prepared, incoherent, inexperienced teacher standing in front of pupils. 

Daphne Koller of Stanford, who founded Coursera with Ng, after seeing tens of thousands of students following their free Stanford lectures online: The universities produce and own the content, and we are the platform that hosts and streams it. We will also be working with employers to connect students with job opportunities

For instance, a biomedical company looking for someone with programming and computational biology skills might ask us for students who did well in our courses on cloud computing and genomics. It enables someone with a less traditional education to get the credentials to open up these opportunities.

Lectures are in English; students have been forming study groups in their own countries to help one another. The biggest enrollments are from the United States, Britain, Russia, India and Brazil.

Coursera chops up its lectures into short segments and offers online quizzes, which can be auto-graded, to cover each new idea. It operates on the honor system. Students post questions in an online forum for all to see, and then vote questions and answers up and down.... With 100,000 students, you can log every single question. It is a huge data mine. There is always someone up somewhere to answer your question after you post it....

These top-quality learning platforms could enable the budget-strained to download the world’s best lecturers on any subject.... It will allow people who lack access to world-class learning, because of financial, geographic or time constraints, to have an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.

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