New Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs and startup companies such as Udacity and Udemy are turning conventional education on its head. Udacity, a startup which is supported by Charles River Ventures, was created by former professors at Stanford who taught one AI course online last Fall which attracted 160,000 students n 190 countries (the original 200 who registered for the course on campus soon dwindled to 30 as most preferred online learning with simulations similar to Khan Academy.) The professors promptly quit Stanford to start a company, noting that they “took the red” pill and “saw Wonderland” and could never go back to conventional teaching again. Udemy, a startup with backing from the founders of Groupon is another venture. These sites will monetize students’ skills and help them get jobs by getting their permission to sell leads to recruiters. So if a recruiter is looking for the hundred best people in some geographic area that know about machine learning, that’s something they could provide, for a fee.
Experts note that in a MOOC, instead of the classroom being the center, it becomes just one node of the network of social interactions. In a classroom, when you ask a question, one student answers and the others don’t get a chance. Online, with embedded quizzes, everyone has to try to answer the questions. And if they don’t understand, they can go back and listen over and over until they do.
Unlike many new startups, the business model is becoming clear. From a community of millions of learners some should ‘opt in’ for valuable, premium services. Those revenues should fund investment in tools, technology and royalties to faculty and universities.” In fact there is a fear that these startups will “disintermediate” universities by spotting the brightest talents among students and hiring them directly. Other startups include Minerva. For essays, students help by grading each other’s work and providing peer coaching (with an average 22 minute response time).
The companies are providing real world ROI examples including workers who have been able to keep their jobs by upgrading their skills or solve difficult problems such as the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan.
Recent articles have pointed to the shift in the view of computer science from “creating tools for scientists” to actually creating the science itself. It’s about oceans, stars, cancer cells, proteins and networks of friends. Ken Birman, a computer science professor at Cornell University , says his discipline is on the way to becoming “the universal science,” a framework underpinning all others, including the social sciences. An extravagant claim from someone with a vested interest? The essence of Birman’s assertion is that computers have gone from being a tool serving science — basically an improvement on the slide rule and abacus — to being part of the science.