Friday, October 19, 2012

Democratization of higher education ...

Following up on my previous article on Coursera, I saw the following quote from Derrick Harris on Kaggle and Coursera at GigaOM

"Several novice programmers 
who signed up for a free machine-learning class on Coursera 
have gone on recently to win predictive-modeling competitions."

I assume this will not be unique to Coursera. That is one, I have personal experience with but others like Khan Academy, Udacity, & edX all are going to democratize higher education and drive more widespread innovation.  Another quote from that same article echos that thought:

"In all fields, there are talented people all over the world 
who just need an avenue 
to hone their skills and a chance to distinguish themselves." 

- Karthik


  1. Democratization is an interesting thought and dream... I take that to mean education by the people, for the people... from K-12, higher to research...

    though I have always wondered why so little has happened in the last 2 decades on this front...Steve Jobs tried it multiple times, the universities have tried it, and then the jury is still out on the internet ventures you mention...(some simple private ventures like Microsoft Encyclopedia and Google Knol failed in the past)

    i think the limiting factors are (a) 11M teachers and the downward pressure on their compensation that education modernization will put (b) democratization of content and legislation (c) technology - we are just getting our feet dirty with crowd-sourced content...

    so i agree, coursera is promising, but still miles away from the day when college education does not require $50,000 a year; and the playing field is level for the masses...

    1. Dilesh:
      I was looking at democratization from accessibility perspective rather than from "by the people, for the people" perspective.

      On your last point of when will college education not require $50K plus a year: A friend of mine was wondering what would post-secondary education look like when his 8 year old graduates out of highschool. My first reaction was, 10 years from now, I foresee the same level of interest among high achieving students in getting to the prestigious campuses for a traditional 4 year undergraduate program - spending 200K+. On the other hand, one looks at Coursera, drop-out mega-successes like Zuckerberg, Gates & Jobs and ones starts wondering! Your thought?

      - Karthik Mani

  2. Karthik :

    I have an 8 year old, so I wonder that same question. From 1995 to 2012, we have seen digital, internet, mobile, social, local revolutionizing communication and information, in the process killing print, post offices, libraries and more. So I think 10 years is a long time for technology to make many universities obsolete. Human touch has largely become irrelevant for GenZ.

    So I think, higher education will see consolidation. The prestigious private universities will thrive, but they will adapt, with blended online/on premise programs. More experimentation, less didactic. Increased reach. The mid and bottom will feel the squeeze.

  3. How about using technology to make high school STEM education better and more equitable?

    Students learn the most from teachers who have deep knowledge of their subject matter. Most STEM teachers in the US do not have this deep knowledge - for many reasons - and is especially bad in rural and poor inner city schools.

    Why not create a series of short videos explaining key concepts by the best teachers? Could have a list of FAQ's for the classroom teacher to use based on questions. The quality of the classroom STEM teachers would inprove be seeing these videos as well and they could focus on the kids having trouble with the concepts.