Oh, the Udacity!

Meet Sebastian Thrun, an education pioneer with the ambitious goal of democratizing education altogether.  Former Stanford professor opened his classroom to the world, and suddenly his Stanford class was being joined by thousands online.  His Stanford students, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to be a student in his classes, chose to view his lectures on the internet rather than attend class (something any former college student can appreciate).  Once the Stanford students joined the lectures online, his Online Artificial Intelligence class had 160,000 students from countries all over the world.  The professor has been working to bring advanced education to the masses through his online start-up Udacity, a potential learning revolution.

What about learning has Mr. Thrun been looking at that we all seem to have forgotten in our educational system?

“I think learning should be free, should be a basic human right, and that we shouldn’t charge a lot of money for it,” Mr. Thrun explained.  ”Learning should be student-centered. We should change the pedagogy of learning, from a classroom of hundreds of students just listening to the professor, to the the student exercise.  You can’t learn something by watching someone else do it.”

The socialization inherent to classroom settings, however, could be something that is beneficial to certain students, while the online work is something that may be beneficial to other students.  Some people may be left behind because they are not necessarily able to follow along.

“Learning how to play tennis, for example, is hard to do.  In terms of literature: we already have vast social networks that students use, so we just take the material to the internet,” said Thrun.  ”It’s similar to what happened to theater about a hundred years ago.  By going to scale, utilizing scale and digital technology, you can bring high-quality education to hundreds of thousands, millions of students.”

A classic example of distribution of information and knowledge.  We already have access to information and online social networks that allow for us to connect throughout the world.  If theater was able to adapt and do it, and bring its product to a national audience through movies, why can’t our educational system be able to connect to this vast network of learning and sharing?

For the full interview watch below:

Sebastian Thrun is a professor at Stanford University and part of the Google X Lab.  To learn more about his online start-up, Udacity, click here