Last year, Stanford University offered three online courses, which anyone in the world could enroll in and take for free. Students were expected to submit homeworks, meet deadlines, and were awarded a "Statement of Accomplishment" only if they met our high grading bar. Together, these three courses had enrollments of around 350,000 students, making this one of the largest experiments in online education ever performed. In the past few months, we have transitioned this effort into a new venture, Coursera, a social entrepeneurship company that partners with top universities to provide high-quality content to everyone around the world for free.
In this talk, I'll report on this new enterprise in education, and why we believe this model can provide both an improved classroom experience for our on-campus students, via a flipped classroom model, as well as a meaningful learning experience for the millions of students around the world who would otherwise never have access to education of this quality. I'll describe the pedagogical foundations for this type of teaching, and the key technological ideas that support them, including easy-to-create video chunks, a scalable online Q&A forum where students can get their questions answered quickly, sophisticated autograded homeworks, and a carefully designed peer grading pipeline that supports the at-scale grading of more open-ended homeworks, such as essay questions, derivations, or business plans.
Whereas technology and automation have made almost all segments of our economy---such as agriculture, energy, manufacturing, transportation---vastly more efficient, education today isn't much different than it was 300 years ago. Given the rising costs of higher education, the hyper-competitive nature of college admissions, and the lack of access to a high quality education, we think there is a huge opportunity to use modern internet and AI technology to inexpensively offer a high quality education online. Through such technology, we envision millions of people gaining access to the world-leading education that has so far been available only to a tiny few, and using this education to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.