Inspired by the Khan Academy, tenured Stanford University Professor and Google Fellow, Sebastian Thurn opened up his course on Artificial Intelligence to the world free of charge (as an experiment). At a Digital Life Design conference this year, Professor Thurn explained how his regular class of 300 expanded to 160,000. The students who normally showed up for his class in person decided to take the class online instead, only 30 of the 300 would show up in person claiming that they liked him better on video. Professor Thurn in turn realized that he ‘taught’ differently in person/class vs. online (read about his weeder classes). Realizing he had the power to touch countless students, he decided to leave Stanford and open up his own online University. This is the story of one game changer in education (Khan Academy) influencing others - and within a matter of a few months or years (the pace is incredible). Professors from Kellogg, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt have joined forces to work on Udacity. If staid Universities could go this way, imagine what it could do to democratize education. I am a lifelong learner and have supported social good causes in the education field for years and in many ways, so this speaks to me at multiple levels.
I signed up for Udacity’s founding class on Computer Science 101, which promised to teach anyone enough Python (a language that can be used to build your own search engine) so that they could attempt to build their own search engine – an inviting prospect and this was a free class (I personally got distracted after the first two classes but that in no way diminishes the power of this idea and its manifestation). Fee-based Lynda.com is another amazing online training channel and a treasure trove for anyone who wants to learn about new software (casually or seriously). Last month, I signed up for this as well. What I learned about my own style of learning was that the additional audio-visual component accelerated my grasp of the subject matter, I preferred the small chunk format (that could be paused or rewound when needed) and having a face talk to me, but on-demand actually improved my learning - coincidentally that was what Professor Thurn’s students liked about his online classes too and why people take so easily to the Khan Academy. My own children have become converts since we introduced them to the Khan Academy. It has the potential to democratize education for many who are disadvantaged or otherwise underserved by their school system. The deserving game changing founder of the Khan Academy, Salman Khan made the TIME 100 list this year.