Coursera co-founder and CMU alum Andrew Ng on the future of education-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, April 18, 2014

Coursera co-founder and CMU alum Andrew Ng on the future of education

April’s guest for the Distinguished Lecture Series, Andrew Ng of Coursera, drew a crowd of interested students and community members to the Silicon Valley campus, with even more joining a broadcast in Pittsburgh and online, to hear his discussion on “The Online Revolution: Education for Everyone.”

Though Ng leads the Artificial Intelligence Lab at Stanford University just a few miles away and earned his undergrad degree in computer science from Carnegie Mellon, this was his first visit to the Silicon Valley campus. After leading the development of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platform at Stanford and teaching a popular Machine Learning class on the new system, Ng and Stanford colleague Daphne Koller co-founded Coursera in 2012 to bring the opportunity for anyone in the world to have access to a world-class education.

He began his talk on the development and vision of Coursera by introducing a student from Bangladesh, whose experience with a microeconomics course changed not only her life, but the lives of more local women she was able to work with and mentor. This is only part of what Ng means when he says MOOCs have the potential for “vastly more impact” than traditional universities.

Coursera has allowed Ng to teach exponentially more students than he could at Stanford, even if he taught for 250 years. The scale of MOOCs has also yielded meaningful statistics that instructors can’t see in smaller, traditional classroom settings. To develop a truly personal experience, he said “we had to teach 100,000 students at once. That gave us the data to make personalization possible.”

In his inspirational talk, Ng also covered the partnerships Coursera is developing with universities to deliver content as well as certificate programs, how they use biorhythms of typing to authenicate users, and the plans to keep Coursera sustainable as they open APIs and develop new features.