New trends in online education were discussed at an informative forum hosted by the Silicon Valley Indian Professionals Association Aug. 23.
Harish Kamath, SIPA director of operations, introduced the panel, moderated by Camille Smith, founding member of the Global Women’s Leadership Network at Santa Clara University.
Kamath pointed out that the Khan Academy, the pioneering nonprofit provider of free online educational videos founded by Salman Khan and the subject of a “60 Minutes,” profile, has “been touted as the invention of the year.”
The challenge ahead, ventured Preetha Ram, co-founder of Open Study, which offers online help and collaboration to students, is that at least one million high school students fail to graduate each year, so “technology will have (design) creative solutions for this generation.”
Ram, associate dean for pre-health and science education at Emory College, added that one current prediction is that “65 percent of today’s grade school kids will end up in jobs that have not been invented yet.”
Avinash Patil, an application manager in the consumer-printing unit at H-P, said a key challenge is to make education “cost effective and increase its reach. Technology has to be personalized to the learner and customized.”
Patil said that solutions in developing countries are not easily exported to countries like India and China, who need solutions tailored to their needs.
The H-P executive said that when mobile phones were used in a pilot program to improve learning in Pakistan, the students with phones scored 30 percent higher. South Korea has declared that they will dispense with all their traditional textbooks by 2015.
Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, described his experience when he offered an artificial intelligence course he had previously taught at Stanford University free online to all.
He said the course, co-taught by Sebastian Thrun, head of the team behind Google’s driverless car, received about 160,000 sign ups, “of which 23,000” passed the course.
A few weeks later, another Google researcher and Stanford computer scientist, Andrew Ng, offered an equally popular course, “Machine Learning," for free. More than 100,000 people watched his lectures online. Ng has told educational writers that it would have taken him 250 years to reach that many students in a conventional Stanford classroom.
Norvig said one surprise was that the community forum established by members of the class became the most important learning tool. “That was something totally out of my control,” he told the SIPA audience.
One challenge in the future he added, will be to mine all data being produced by universities offering online courses to find out what teaching methods are achieving results.
Ram said that the “diversity of learner styles means that there has to be a diversity of teaching styles.”
Patil and moderator Smith agreed that one piece that is missing and will come soon is integrating video conferencing more broadly in education.