Dear Commons Community,
This was the second day of the Sloan-C Conference here in Orlando. The highlight of the day for me was the keynote address by Sebastian Thrun, long time research professor at Stanford University and more recently, founder of Udacity. His presentation, Democratizing Higher Education, focused on how he took his Stanford graduate level class online, made it tuition free and ended up with 160,000 students enrolled world-wide. Underlying this class was a teaching model that emphasized student engagement, and problem solving.
His pedagogical approach is well-familiar to those of us who have experience teaching online but the scale of his course is most impressive. His work has done a great deal to launch the MOOC phenomenon that a number of private colleges and universities are considering.
Thrun recently created Udacity, an online university, which offers college-level courses free of charge. With a dozen courses underway, Udacity presently has had over 800,000 student course enrollments.
During the question period, I asked him why he did not establish a center at Stanford rather than create his own private university. His response was that Stanford or any university for that matter did not have the flexibility and nimbleness to launch such a radically different approach to teaching and learning. He also emphasized that Udacity was probably best suited for adult and life-long learning rather than full-degree programs.