Future Human: Zero Education, Wednesday May 15
The Future Human salon series returns to The Book Club on Wednesday May 15 for a late spring hurrah before we reconvene in August. It’s called Zero Education, and will reveal why digital learning wants to be free.
What if students could educate themselves for free using the world’s finest institutions and professors, and build an à la carte, interdisciplinary qualification respected by the world’s leading employers – all from the comfort of a beer splattered sofa? This fantasy, exotic as it may appear to the financially crunched classes of 2013, is rapidly being turned into a reality by the protagonists of the ‘Zero Education’ movement.
The big bang moment for online education was the development of the first proper MOOC (‘Massively Online Open Course’) at Stanford University in 2011. Developed by for Google researchers Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun, the ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ interactive course was supposed to attract 10,000 students. Instead 160,000 signed up.
Sensing an opportunity, Norvig and Thrun quit Stanford to form an educational startup called Udacity, which is now one of the world’s foremost digital education companies. Other entrepreneurs have been quick to follow in the footsteps of Udacity, developing similar platforms such as Coursera and edX. They offer video lessons from prestigious lecturers, many of them tenured staff at the world’s leading universities, and interactive tests on subjects ranging from equine nutrition to the early Hollywood studio system. Meanwhile, the process of assessing students is automated, accelerating the rate of student graduation.
In just two years, the Zero Education movement has admitted a global student body of millions, and is already threatening the scholastic institutions of the West. But can world class teaching standards truly be maintained by screen learning? Is a MOOC education financially sustainable or ethical, and can it simulate waking up with a traffic cone on your head? And how can smart teachers and publishers get in on the action, and reach students all over the world?
Helping us navigate the rising tides of mass digital academe are three pioneering captains of the education industry.
Nicola Dandridge is Chief Executive of Universities UK, an organisation that is at the forefront of research into the evolution of digital education, and which lobbies the government to this end. In her previous career as a celebrated lawyer, Nicola specialised in equality issues, working with the Equality Challenge Unit, the European Commission and Thompsons Solicitors.
Andrew Bollington is COO of the University of London‘s international programmes, and is in charge of digital education services that serve 52,000 students in 180 countries. Earlier this year he oversaw a partnership with Coursera to provide five MOOC courses from University of London. He has a keen professional interest in the technological and practical innovations that are creating new forms of cheap, global education.
Patrick McAndrew is Professor of Open Education at the Open University, where he is responsible for developing new methods of open and free learning for Britain’s largest academic institution. Aside from designing online courses, oversees initiatives like OER Research Hub, OLnet, Bridge to Success and OpenLearn. These initiatives have informed the development of Futurelearn, the Open University’s platform which will supply MOOCs to students all over the world.
The Zero Education movement is nothing less than a revolution in global economic empowerment and knowledge acquisition, and will change the way that we, our friends and our children learn. So make sure you join us at the Book Club on May 15 to find out how a lifetime higher education bill of £27,000 plus might be meaningfully reinvested. It’s an essential event for anyone who is paid to teach, who pays to learn or who feels money should have nothing to do with the inculcation of a liberal education.