The Future of Education: Only The Mind Is the Limit

“Everyone is both a learner and a teacher,” states Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, and an expert on Artificial Intelligence (AI), during his February 2012 TED.com talk on the 100,000-student classroom. Norvig, and his partner, Sebastian Thrun, taught a 10-week course on AI to a virtual class of over 100,000 students from around the globe. Drawing on what others have already accomplished, such as Salman Khan at Kahn Academy, Norvig and Thrun knew that shorter videos work best, and that typical educational deadlines were also a necessity to move the learning forward. Through their experience, the pair has gathered billions of interactions and data points from students on the future of learning, which they plan to analyze and share, as well as use to reshape future offerings.

From flipping the classroom to creating a global classroom, what Khan, Norvig and Thrun have begun, others have picked up and expanded upon. Coursera, the group garnering current attention, is ready to roll with over 100 MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, which include courses in medicine, biology and health, society & medical ethics. Original Coursera partners (University of Michigan, Princeton, Stanford and University of Pennsylvania) offered 43 courses and registered 680,000 students. This week the company announced that 12 major research universities (listed below) will now also offer courses. Both Forbes (“Is Coursera the Beginning of the End for Traditional Higher Education?“) and the New York Times (“Universities Reshaping Education on the Web“) picked up the story, as interest in the changing educational paradigm grows. Whether or not MOOCs will replace traditional education is yet to be seen, but the number of course offerings at Coursera has now more than doubled, as will the number of expected students from around the world. New Coursera partners include:

  1. California Institute of Technology
  2. Duke University
  3. Georgia Institute of Technology
  4. Johns Hopkins
  5. Rice University
  6. University of California at San Francisco
  7. University of Illinois – Champaign-Urbana
  8. University of Washington
  9. University of Virginia
  10. University of Edinburgh-Scotland
  11. University of Toronto
  12. EPF Lausanne (a technical college in Switzerland)

The inclusiveness and ability to reach less traditional students are just two impressive benefits of these MOOCs. All a learner needs is access to the internet, which they can get in any internet cafe or Starbucks around the world. Suddenly someone living on the south side of Chicago, or as Khan points out–in Kolkata, without the means for higher education, has one more option. Not to mention the collaboration that can occur across oceans. As knowledge spreads through these novel means with greater openness and transparency, think of the accelerated rate at which problems, medical or otherwise, can potentially be solved.

I just signed on for a course offered by University of Michigan Professor Eric Rabkin on Fantasy & Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our World, which focuses on how we understand ourselves and our world through stories. As we look to better understand patients through narrative, what better way than to get grounded in the classics and character archetypes once again? And as a perpetual student, what an incredible opportunity to take a course of this caliber in the moments I can spare throughout a full work week! I will be sure to report back on the experience along the way. Please share your own experience with anything educationally innovative–as Norvig so astutely stated, “everyone is both a learner and a teacher.”

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3 Comments on “The Future of Education: Only The Mind Is the Limit”

  1. sgranzyk says:

    Yes, these classes look great. I plan to take the one on astrophysics and extraterrestrials– I may be older but I don’t need “regulation”–just more education to keep the blood flowing and the synapses firing.

    • Tracy Granzyk says:

      Hope you can share your experience with the technology, and this particular educational format. And the topic is great! As an educator of many years, your comments are so valuable. Please be sure to share the blog with colleagues. Would love to have them weigh in with their own experience on the delivery of educational material as well. Medical education is in need of an overhaul, and would be great to share ideas/best practices across all areas of education.

  2. […] The Future of Education: Only The Mind Is the Limit. Posted: July … and the New York Times (“Universities Reshaping Education on the Web“) picked the story, as interest in the changing educational paradigm grows.  […]


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