The Online Revolution: Education for Everyone

Massively open education models have been in the news recently (e.g.  One of the new organisations behind the story is Coursera (see

On 2 July 2012 we were fortunate to welcome Professor Daphne Koller from Stanford University, a co-founder of Coursera, to the University of London for a talk about “The Online Revolution: Education for Everyone” and particularly the pedagogy/platform that sits behind Coursera.



Full presentation video:


Coursera offers courses from the top universities, “for free to everyone”.  Current partners include Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Pennsylvania.  The platform is designed to support millions of students on degree level units usually lasting 5 to 10 weeks.

The Online Revolution: Education for Everyone        Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng

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.  Coursera currently has around 650K registered students in 42 courses, and around 1.5 million enrollments.

In this talk, I’ll report on this new experiment 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.  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.

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