16 April 2012

Revolutions in Online Learning

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The third is Community. We believe learning should be as rich and varied as the world you're learning about. So with our community we're building a kind of multimedia wonderland of learning, where videos, audio, usage, mnemonics, etymologies and much more bring your learning to life.

We believe that every learner is partly a teacher, and we hope that once you get started, you'll soon be supplying little nuggets of wit and wisdom to help the rest of the community as they learn! _Memrise
h/t Wired

Here are some other relatively new approaches to online learning:
When Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun posted a free AI course online last year, it attracted more than 160,000 students from 190 countries. The experiment prompted Thrun and two other roboticists to launch the for-profit online "college", Udacity. Courses offered include Building a Search Engine and Programming a Robotic Car.

Launched by Y Combinator graduates Zach Sima and Ryan Bubinski in August 2011, Codecademy teaches people how to program in multiple computing languages quickly, easily and for free. Their approach teaches by talking students through the processes -- you write code while being led through the basic principles.

UK-based distance-learning institution the Open University joined the democratic education wave in 2006 with OpenLearn, a website that provides free global access to the OU professors' learning materials. This includes more than 600 courses divided into topics spanning from Body & Mind to Money & Management. open.edu/openlearn

TED wants its ideas to spread even further, to "brains that aren't fully wired yet", according to curator Chris Anderson. The TED-Ed hub combines instructional videos with interactive content and lesson plans designed by educators. Teachers can submit audio lessons to the site: the best recordings will be turned into new videos and win their maker $1,000.

The Khan Academy
The Khan Academy was founded by MIT engineering graduate Salman Khan in 2006. The website supplies free first-person tutorials on subjects as varied as economics, art history and computer science. Financial donors to the academy include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and the O'Sullivan Foundation.

...The idea that new technology could open up higher education to a mass audience is not a new one. In 1926, John Stobart, director of education at the BBC, wrote a letter to the corporation's director general, John Reith, describing a new idea that he called "the wireless university". Stobart started with a question: "Are we to place broadcasting at the disposal of the various existing universities, or are we going to break out on a new trail of our own?" He complained that those current courses had "grown out of various historical sources such as the medieval trivium in the older universities". Citing the "ubiquity" of radio, Stobart wrote that the "wireless university, working under its different conditions, should, as far as possible, break away from tradition."

...[Sebastian] Thrun, inspired by the ubiquity and interactivity of the web, would set about turning Stobart's fantasy into reality. Back at Stanford after TED, he dusted off a PowerPoint presentation he'd put together in 2007. Back then he had begun envisioning a YouTube for education, a for-profit startup that would allow students to discover and take courses from top professors. In a few slides, he'd spelled out the nine essential components of a university education: admissions, lectures, peer interaction, professor interaction, problem-solving, assignments, exams, deadlines and certification. Although Thrun admired MIT's OpenCourseWare -- the university's decade-old initiative to publish online all of its lectures, syllabi and homework from 2,100 courses -- he thought it relied too heavily on videos of actual class- room lectures. That was tapping just one-ninth of the equation, with a bit of course material thrown in as a bonus.

Thrun knew first-hand what it was like to crave superior instruction. When he was a masters-degree student at the University of Bonn in Germany in the late 80s, he found his AI professors to be lacking. He spent a lot of time filling in the gaps at the library, but he longed for a more direct connection to the experts. Thrun created his PowerPoint presentation because he understood that university education was a system in need of disruption. But it wasn't until he heard Khan's talk that he thought he could do something about it. He spoke with Peter Norvig, Google's director of research and his CS221 coprofessor, and they agreed to open up their next class. _Wired
Read the Wired article for more links and references to online learning approaches.

It may be fortuitous that we are entering such a fertile period of online learning revolutions at the same time that the higher education bubble in the US is reaching critical proportions.


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