Koller, the award-winning Rajeev Motwani Professor in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University, co-founded Coursera with Andrew Ng (Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab and Associate Professor of Computer Science). The massive open online course platform, of which Penn has partnered with, officially launched in April 2012 and has given learners across the world access to high quality college courses for free through the internet. While some have proclaimed this to be the ultimate disruption of higher education, others claim that the classroom experience cannot be replicated or surpassed by a digital platform such as this one. What are Koller's thoughts on the matter?
I had a chance to catch up with the Coursera co-founder in anticipation of the Silfen University Forum to get some of her thoughts on open learning and the future of higher (and to a further extent, general) education:
MTW: As open learning becomes more prominent in education, what role do you see future educators fulfilling in the classroom?
DK: I think most educators will move to a role in which they interact much more closely and directly with their students. Rather than spending most of their time on content preparation & dissemination, and on grading of homework, they will be guides, tutors, coaches. They will also curate content and contextualize it, and make it directly relevant to their students' needs.
MTW: What things should a professor who is thinking of teaching a MOOC for Coursera keep in mind about the thousands of potential learners that may take their course?
DK: That they come from very diverse backgrounds: geographical, socio-economic, educational, ethnic. Therefore, one needs to teach in a way that is more inclusive, and very sensitive to students' different needs and expectations.
MTW: Where would you like to see Coursera and open learning in 5-10 years?
DK: We believe in learning without limits. I would love to be able to connect anyone, anywhere to the best education in any topic.
MTW: What is the biggest misconception you’ve seen or heard regarding Coursera and MOOCs?
DK: That they are non-interactive and non-social.
MTW: What is the most important thing that you hope everyone recognizes about the possibilities of open learning?
DK: That nothing empowers like knowledge, and that making education a basic human right can help move us closer to solving many other of the world's problems.
For more thoughts from Daphne Koller about open learning and the future of higher education in anticipation of her appearance at the Silfen University Forum, see her Ted Talk below from June 2012 (published August 2012):
*Although tickets are no longer available for the Silfen University Forum, you can still view the webcast of the event by going to this link on Friday, April 5th 2013 at 12pm: http://www.upenn.edu/silfenforum/webcast.html*