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Khan Academy, Coursera, edX, and MOOCs Are Changing Education

Salman Khan, Founder of the Khan Academy | MIT Technology Review: "In his new book, The One World School House: Education Reimagined, Salman Khan recalls how, eight years ago, he uploaded his first mathematics tutorial to YouTube. “I had no preconceived notions about how people learned; I was constrained by no orthodoxy regarding the ‘right’ way to do things,” he writes. . . . The rest of the book is an erudite and accessible call to reorganize education. In much of the developed world, Khan writes, schools use a top-down teaching model first developed in Prussia, a Germanic kingdom known for “stiff whiskers, stiff hats, and stiff way of marching in lockstep.” Students must march ahead even if they haven’t understood what came before. Eventually, some stumble and tune out. Khan’s big idea is that using online technology for lessons, quizzes, and constant assessment will create an affordable way to implement a different teaching ideal known as “mastery learning.” Everyone advances at his or her own pace. Don’t try algebra until you know your arithmetic. Spend less time in lectures and more in hands-on problem solving."

Coursera, edX, and MOOCs Are Changing the Online Education Business | MIT Technology Review: "Khan’s simple videos aren’t without their critics, who wonder whether his tutorials really teach math so well. “We agree 100 percent we aren’t going to solve education’s problems,” Khan responds. But he says the point to keep in mind is that technology-wise, “we’re in the top of the first inning.” He’ll be pouring about $10 million a year into making his videos better—already there are embedded exercises and analytics that let teachers track 50 or 100 students at once. Pretty soon, Khan told me, his free stuff “will be as good or better than anything anyone is charging money for.” Digital instruction faces limits. Online, you will never smell a burning resistor or get your hands wet in a biology lab. Yet the economics of distributing instruction over the Web are so favorable that they seem to threaten anyone building a campus or hiring teachers. At edX, Agarwal says, the same three-person team of a professor plus assistants that used to teach analog circuit design to 400 students at MIT now handles 10,000 online and could take a hundred times more."

Daphne Koller, the AI Researcher Who Founded Coursera | MIT Technology Review: "So far, tearing down the paywalls around higher education has been the simple part. What’s more challenging is making online classes like “A History of the World Since 1300” and “Algorithms I” match the quality of their in-person equivalents. That means racing to set up live forums for class discussions, keeping the site from crashing amidst the crush of students, and urgently seeking ways to make classes more interactive and to automate grading as much as possible. Given such technical challenges, it’s not an accident that many of the people behind recent efforts to put college courses online come from computer science labs. Another Stanford researcher, Sebastian Thrun, resigned to create the startup Udacity. At MIT, the former head of the AI department, Anant Agarwal, now runs edX, another of the organizations offering “massive online open courses,” or MOOCs (see “The Crisis in Higher Education”)."

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