Daphne Koller: What We’re Learning From Online Education

Daphne Koller is the ‘birth mother’ of Coursera, and along with Stanford colleague Andrew Ng are the two behind the rise of MOOC’s and disruptive elearning in higher education.

This is a FANTASTIC video which provides insight into the impetus for Coursera and an inside view of this fantastic technology company.



About the Coursera Video (from a presentation at TED)

Daphne Koller is enticing top universities to put their most intriguing courses online for free — not just as a service, but as a way to research how people learn. With Coursera (cofounded by Andrew Ng), each keystroke, quiz, peer-to-peer discussion and self-graded assignment builds an unprecedented pool of data on how knowledge is processed.

With Coursera, Daphne Koller and co-founder Andrew Ng are bringing courses from top colleges online, free, for anyone who wants to take them. Bio: http://www.ted.com/speakers/daphne_koller.html

Coursera for High School Students?


Is Coursera a High School Offering?

This is a quick introduction to a Google Poll I just sent out on Twitter.

In a couple days, I’m going to be meeting with a public school administrator who is inquiring about the feasibility of promoting Coursera courses to high school students.

I’d like to use the experience of a group of amazing educators (at all levels) who are engaged in online learning and solicit YOUR  experience and thoughtful comments on this question:

Should a public school district and/or high school (grades 9 – 12) promote (free, online) COURSERA (college) courses to their students? 

I’ll reserve my comments for a later post….right now, thank you for your time and input:


Thank you,




Future of Higher Education Becomes Unclear As Free Online Courses Multiply

A quick interview by the New York Times with Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford–makers of the COURSERA platform–are adding 12 universities to  the online education venture they founded.


How could free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, benefit or be detrimental to society at large?

WHAT company recently announced that a dozen major research universities have joined forces with it to help expand and enhance online learning?
WHAT technological advances are expected to allow MOOCs to open higher education to hundreds of millions of people?

WHO are the founders of Coursera?

WHERE did a free online artificial intelligence course attract 160,000 students from 190 countries last year?
WHERE do two-thirds of Coursera’s students hail from?

HOW many students did Coursera register with its original partners?
HOW, for the most part, do the MOOCs function for students?
HOW do you think MOOCs could benefit society at large, and HOW could they be detrimental?

WHY did Richard A. DeMillo, the director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech, refer to this recent expansion in online learning as a “tsunami”?
WHY are grading and online cheating especially problematic for MOOCs?

WHEN have you or someone you know taken an online course?

What are your thoughts on this post? Use the comment area below and let’s discuss it!
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Minnesota and Coursera

An article from Ars Technica today seems to paint a different picture from the early and emotional headlines regarding the state of Minnesota’s reported “ban” of Coursera’s  free online courses.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Katherine Mangan seemed to start the furor with the headline Minnesota Gives Coursera the Boot, Citing a Decades-Old Law. It was picked-up and spread via Slate’s article:  Free Online Education Is Now Illegal in Minnesota

See Ms. Mangan’s timely updates and reports on the topic here

Most everyone was shocked that Minnesota would want to ban FREE online courses. This will certainly be an interesting story to track and the Ars Technica article provides a different perspective. AS DO the comments found at the bottom of the original article.

Ars Technica article on Minnesota and Coursera:

No, Minnesota did not kick Coursera out of the state (Updated)

Minn. law compels education institutions to register, but Coursera isn’t one.

by Cyrus Farivar (article link)

Despite many media reports that Minnesota has forced online education platform Coursera to forbid Minnesotans from taking classes online, the state official in charge of this policy says it has done no such thing.

On Thursday, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Minnesota had “given Coursera the boot.”

It is true that Coursera has changed its terms of service to include a cautionary note advising universities offering courses via the California startup that they could not do so in Minnesota without authorization from state regulators.

“If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota,” the terms, which were changed in August 2012, now read.

However, the state official in charge of enforcing this policy told Ars that his office does not have the power to regulate Coursera, as the company doesn’t offer courses directly. Rather, Coursera acts as a middleman for universities (including UC Irvine, Stanford, and many others) that want to offer free courses online.

“I don’t care what they do; we don’t regulate them,” George Roedler, the manager of institutional registration and licensing at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, told Ars on Thursday.

“I specifically said that [Coursera] didn’t have to put anything on their website. They could do what they wanted. They could ignore it. They chose this route and the reason I believe they did it was to try to protect the schools in their wake. So be it. That’s what they did.”

Indeed, the change of the terms of service appears to be a precautionary measure to skirt potential violations of Minnesota law.

Law designed to protect students

Roedler explained that Minnesota’s state law requires that educational institutions serving Minnesotans must be registered with the state—and pay a fee that can go as high as $12,000—as a means for the state to keep an eye on what’s going on. He added that the law had been around for decades, and that many other states have similar laws on their books.

“It’s a consumer protection law,” Roedler added. “We have had situations where in the past this law was enforced through student complaints. If we register the school, we have some control over the school. We have some standing over them. [We can say]: ‘You’ve mistreated this student—come into compliance.’”

A co-founder of Coursera told Ars that the company was informed of Minnesota’s law in July 2012 and changed its terms of service the following month. In addition, the company does not even know how many Minnesotan students it has.

“While is it up to individual institutions to choose whether to apply for permission, the Terms of Service amendment is intended to protect all of Coursera’s partner universities with respect to Minnesota’s laws,” Andrew Ng told Ars in an e-mailed statement.

UPDATE (Saturday): Some astute commenters have noticed that Slate is now reporting that Minnesota is clarifying its position and doesn’t want to discourage Minnesotans from using Coursera.

Larry Pogemiller, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, sent Slate this statement:

“Obviously, our office encourages lifelong learning and wants Minnesotans to take advantage of educational materials available on the Internet, particularly if they’re free. No Minnesotan should hesitate to take advantage of free, online offerings from Coursera.”

“When the legislature convenes in January, my intent is to work with the Governor and Legislature to appropriately update the statute to meet modern-day circumstances. Until that time, I see no reason for our office to require registration of free, not-for-credit offerings.”

Dennis Carter of eCampusNews writes today about the University of Virginia’s recent partnership with Coursera, in his article titled:  Experts: UVa.’s Coursera partnership far from an embrace of online learning.

For many, the growth of Coursera is exciting–especially as it adds more member institutions. However, there’s another side to this growth that his article focuses on: politics & power at institutions that are on the sideline.

Mr. Carter approached me to comment on the situation.

My response was:

From afar, the University of Virginia’s partnership with Coursera seems to be a reaction to the pressures President Sullivan received from the board, and specifically leader Helen Dragas. It seemed like NOT having online offerings played a part in President Sullivan’s ouster in early June.

This was made clear in Dragas’s 10-point critique of Sullivan with the “changing role of technology in adding value to the reach and quality of the educational experience of our students” as point number two.

Given all of the political pressures around University of Virginia’s need to add online learning, it’s unfortunate that it appears neither lady knew their own Darden Business School had been engaged in talks with Coursera since April.

Really pretty crazy the power plays that exist within institutions as they rush to jump-on the new online learning gold rush.

Enjoy the day!


Mr. Carter’s next question was perhaps a bigger, even more important question NOT covered in his article:

Is the general embrace of MOOCs a good sign for online education, and consequently, a bad sign for traditional universities that have ignored web-based learning?

My reply was:

Wow– a great question…and a “can of worms”!

I think the key is in the definition of “online learning” and importantly what we expect will occur inside a MOOC and what the student outcome will be.

So much of online learning now at the K12 & college level is simply a recorded lecture that’s viewed or “textbook online”. It works but really isn’t different from the experience of a traditional classroom, which means the transference isn’t difficult for either teacher or student.

A MOOC however, is a TOTALLY different kind of “online learning” altogether.

Stephen Downes (downes.ca & Twitter @OLdaily) is in my opinion THE “expert” on MOOC’s, having been hosting them years before anyone else (and using open source tools).

He writes in his article “What a MOOC Does”:

“One big difference between a MOOC and a traditional course is that a MOOC is completely voluntary. You decide that you want to participate, you decide how to participate, then you participate. If you’re not motivated, then you’re not in the MOOC.”
“If we can get past the idea that the purpose of a MOOC is to ‘teach people stuff’ then we can begin to talk about what benefits they bring. But so long as we just think of them as another way of doing the same old thing, we’ll be misunderstanding them.”

I think this is the reason why MOOC’s that are really specialized, upper-level courses–like artificial intelligence and computer programming taught to tens of thousands by Stanford genius Sebastian Thrun, works, because there’s an investment and voluntary desire to learn from one of the brightest and be part of a collective of similar students.

Whether or not MOOC’s are good or bad will depend on how students use them and how well they do in them– do they complete them (23,000 of 58,000 made it through Stanford’s first MOOC), do they pass them, do they assess well on some measure?

What do YOU think?

Is the general embrace of MOOCs a good sign for online education, and consequently, a bad sign for traditional universities that have ignored web-based learning?

Use the comment section below–share your thoughts!