Tag Archives: new digital shoreline

Free Higher Education with Udacity


The world of higher education could be on the verge of a major paradigm shift. Sebastian Thrun, a former professor of computer science at Stanford, has stepped down from his academic post to dedicate himself to running Udacity, an online university poised to offer high quality online education. At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal because there are literally hundreds of online universities. But here’s the catch: Thrun, together with cofounder, David Evans, formed the company with a goal of providing these classes to anyone for FREE. That might send a shudder through many cash-strapped traditional universities, working hard to survive in times of budget cuts and pressure to offer more services. Udacity has powerful backing. Thrun has already used the model to provide a highly successful free course through Stanford in 2011. He and Peter Novig (Director of Research at Google) developed an “Intro to Artificial Intelligence” as an experiment and ultimately ended up with 160,000 students from all over the world. It took a small army of 2,000 volunteer translators to eliminate language barriers. The end result was highly successful.

Thrun has also dispensed with the classic idea of assigning grades. In fact, he has stated: Grades are the failure of the education system. His approach is to allow students to continue working on material until they master it. He envisions an entire class finishing at an A+ level. His vision draws on something said by Salman Khan, founder of the online Khan Academy: “When you learn to ride a bicycle, and you fail to learn a bicycle, you don’t stop to learn a bicycle, give the person a ‘D’ and move onto unicycle.” A class is about teaching and learning, not about segmenting and categorizing achievement.

Udacity’s first official course begins February 20th, 2012 and people are already gearing up to be part of the grand experiment. The next course is titled: Building Your Own Search Engine. I for one, will be watching to see what I can learn from Udacity and its new approach to teaching and learning. These ideas will begin restructuring higher education on the New Digital Shoreline. For more see Udacity.

A Bit of Connectivist Thinking

Last year, my oldest son, Mark, called me and said his medical school acceptance would be put on hold unless he produced his vaccination records by the next day. That doesn’t sound like a difficult problem, until time and geography constraints are thrown in. His records were located in a lock box in our home in Kansas. My wife and I were both in Michigan, about a thousand miles away. Each of us had a key—the only two keys to the box. I threw out a number of possible solutions: contacting the family doctor (who informed us their paper records had been moved offsite for digitizing and were not accessible at the moment), breaking open the box with a crowbar, and begging the medical school to give him enough time for the key to be mailed overnight. My son, being a tech-savvy millennial, had other ideas. He went to the Internet, searched the Web for information about picking locks and quickly found a diagram that described the bends to put into a paper clip in order to create a replacement key for our specific lockbox. A YouTube video provided details about the mechanics behind picking the lock. Within a few short minutes, he had his medical records. I might also add that this was a high-end lock box, so I was surprised he opened it that quickly. He had “know-where.” Mark sent messages to his friends about his experience picking the lock and became a node on their information networks. He now is their go-to guy for future lock-picking needs! He used know-where to build know-how. This was a connectivist process in action. The learning resided in a community outside the individual but was available to him when he required it.

This is an example of connectivism in action. George Siemens summarizes in his blog:

1. Connectivism is the application of network principles to define both knowledge and the process of learning. Knowledge is the pattern of relationships, and learning is the creation of new connections.
2. Connectivism focuses on the inclusion of technology as part of our distribution of knowledge. Our knowledge resides in the connections we form, both with people and with information sources such as databases, wikis, and blogs.
3. Connectivism recognizes the fluid nature of knowledge and connections based on context.

It is the way our students are learning and applying their knowledge!

Midwest Book Review: The Education Shelf

The New Digital Shoreline: How Web 2.0 and Millennials Are Revolutionizing Higher Education offers a fine survey of the complex effects of Web 2.0 on higher education, documenting forces that educators need to know about to modify interactions with students and peers. From understanding how the population of the new Web is different with different expectations to understanding the new mindset of Web 2.0, this is packed with details supporting a reinvention of higher education to meet these new perspectives – a support which goes beyond just adding new technology to the learning mix. Higher education collections must have this new approach. Post from MBR: The Education Shelf