, Daphne Koller: What We’re Learning From Online Education

Over the past three years, more than 1.5 million students have completed courses at MITx, and some of those students are in India.

, Daphne Koller: What We're Learning From Online Education

By Daphne Koller, vice president, product at Udacity

Online learning has become one of the fastest-growing segments of the higher education market. This is largely because of the world-class jobs requiring high levels of training and expertise and the costs of completing traditional education programs that many can’t afford to pursue.

The federal government, meanwhile, has prioritized the growth of competency-based online programs. These aren’t the same as traditional online degrees, because they are almost entirely free.

The public and media attention being paid to the impact of affordable online education has created significant momentum. For example, higher education leaders like President Barack Obama and the former chancellor of the New York City Board of Education, Carmen Fariña, have said that a need exists for a mechanism that promotes a greater focus on what really matters in higher education — undergraduate degree completion. For example, we know that more students are at the college entrance when they have the right degree, which leads to success and stronger connections. Higher completion rates also help universities, communities and employers.

As a company that builds and runs curricula, we’ve seen firsthand that students, teachers and students are hungry for new ways to learn. Whether it’s as a learner or a learner in training, online education lets students do what they can’t — study on-the-go or across time zones, do it at their own pace and anywhere and on any device. With a variety of different ways to learn, from mastery to experience or expert-to-expert, students can choose what type of learning they want, who they want to teach them and what material they’re ready to take on. And the best thing is, this type of learning doesn’t cost anything, including time.

Education, whether online or offline, can help people pursue their ambitions. Many more people can, for instance, learn to be more efficiently deployed by using any app where they can get answers quickly or collaborate with others to improve their problem-solving skills. Many more can learn to analyze and analyze like never before. And many more can work remotely with a global network of people to create and share ideas.

Online education is an opportunity for people to better shape their careers, transform their lives and become more productive members of the workforce. Our intentions, however, weren’t to one day become a bigger part of that world, because we’re laser-focused on what we’re doing right now — and ensuring that we’re delivering high-quality experiences for every student at every distance.

With more than 100,000 online courses and certifications from more than 200 learning institutions, we’re focusing on students in math, science, health, journalism, creative writing, entrepreneurship, leadership and management. We’re working with hundreds of institutions to keep our students learning all day, every day, no matter where they are. We’re also experimenting with new tools that help students and institutions quickly build high-quality learning experiences for learners worldwide, and we are taking a no-sweat approach in our design efforts that maximizes the learning experience and better prepares students for lifelong learning.

When we do things right, we’re attracting some of the best students in the world. Udacity connects students around the world to complete online courses or certification programs in different skills, professions and domains, using open technology platforms that increase collaboration and democratize learning. Online learning is not just a major trend — it’s already a game-changer in educational quality and in career achievement for students everywhere.

(Koller is a leader in online education, and she is a lecturer at Stanford University.)

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