Consumer Learning

I listened to this IBM podcast with Matt Glotzbach, CEO of our portfolio company Quizlet, this morning.

Matt explains that edtech, a long-standing term for the market for software and technology sold to the education market, is fundamentally different from the newer and exciting market for consumer learning.

We agree with Matt and our approach to investing in education, a core part of our thesis 3.0, is about delivering learning tools directly to the student and bypassing the traditional education system.

That does not mean that consumer learning is in opposition to the traditional education system, though.

We see students and teachers adopting tools like Quizlet, Duolingo, Codecademy and many others to improve learning outcomes in the classroom and at home.

But consumer learning starts with the learner and is focused on serving them as the customer, not institutions, districts, schools or other “enterprises.”

I think a learner-centric model will produce better learning outcomes than an enterprise-centric model and I also think these consumer learning companies will be better businesses too.

#hacking education#Uncategorized

Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .It is not an “either or” issue, but, rather, a “both and” solution.I used Quizlet years ago as a study aid while taking my instrument and commercial flight training which is fairly academic.The course was an enterprise level offering while the study aid was a personal, learning style decision.The course (expensive) had a lot of excellent digital teaching instruments, but the study aid (free) was my decision. I sent people a link to my notes which made the integration between the course and the notes durable.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. jason wright


      1. JLM

        .Both complimentary and complementary?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. jason wright

          good spot. my hands and my brain are often out of sync. i’m leaving it as it is. Exhibit C.Even though i do read i often have problems with vowels. C for confusion.

          1. Lawrence Brass

            my compliments for doing that 🙂

          2. jason wright

            :)it’s been an education, and no subscription.

          3. JLM

            .I tell my dogs, “Good spot” when I want them to go to their assigned sleeping location, so I am going back to bed now.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. sigmaalgebra

            English spelling, especially for vowels, is a train wreck. Can’t tell from how the word is pronounced since with the long and short versions of the vowels there are lots of close overlaps and, thus, get ambiguity in spelling.Part of the problems is that English borrowed from several other languages, especially French. E.g., can be tough to know if a word ends in “ant” versus “ent”.The situation of vowels in English is so bad that apparently a spell checker just puts an x at each vowel and presents as alternatives all the resulting matches.My wife had a solution: She could see the words! That’s gotta be cheating!As technology moves forward, there are some old jobs we don’t do anymore. E.g., we don’t hitch up the team before going to the general store at the county seat. Well, with computer spelling checkers, we don’t have to remember all the goofy English spelling.There was a brilliant comedy skit making fun of English spelling with the line, IIRC, “If English doesn’t respect itself, why should I respect it?”. The skit was was full of outrageous examples of bad English spelling and pronunciation far from the spelling and a total riot. Apparently at least one version of the skit is at…There is a similar skit at…Can see a lot more such skits via Google searchEnglish spelling comedy site: youtube.comOne example, of course, is Kavanaugh. What’s with the “augh” nonsense? Why not Kavanaw or Kavanah? To be careful, we still have to guess at a short “a” or a long one.One of the places where I started to check out on English spelling in about the third grade was “pneumonia”. The “eu” instead of just “u” is bad enough, but the “p” is outrageous!It turns out, current German spelling makes a lot of sense. IIRC Bismarck (what’s with the “ck” instead of just “k”?) set up a commission to change the spelling in German to be phonetic, as it is pronounced. Net, German is much easier to spell and pronounce than English.But, some simple software can defeat the nonsense of English spelling (although not pronunciation). My favorite spell checker is ASPELL commonly distributed with TeX (from D. Knuth) math word whacking software; it’s terrific, very nicely written software, for me much, MUCH better than anything in Web browsers, Microsoft Word, etc.

  2. Pointsandfigures

    Sort of like patient focused model of healthcare developed at Mayo

    1. fredwilson

      Yessssssss. That is the focus of our health care investing

      1. JamesHRH

        The 3.0 thesis should have an addendum – ‘ with a preference for individual over enterprise centric value delivery ‘.

  3. Adam Sher

    I am hopeful that consumer learning companies as well as MOOC led by high quality schools will result in a low-cost, high-quality education. Equally important to accessible high-quality and low-cost, is that this should be implemented at the earliest ages as possible because the impact of great education compounds as children grow.I understand that it is easiest to focus on college level education because the most money is there; however, that’s the least impactful time because you have 12+ years of education (or not) that confounds the effectives of college-level intervention.

  4. Eytan Buchman

    This. 100X this.I think that the core difference is that the education market is a captive audience, which makes educators lazy, whereas consumers have a free market of educational resources at their fingertips.For example, I have a plugin I use – – that educates marketers by constantly surfacing the right educational material, in places where a marketing degree would use a textbook that felt out of date.Given how rapid new information is generated, educators need to somehow adapt a AI and human distillation to keep content on-point….or it just feels like outdated curriculums in weeks. Basically, if you want to find edtech platforms that work, look at the platforms where the learners don’t need to be. Great stuff.

    1. Adam Sher

      In your example, AI aids you in a vocational way. This can be a great approach to make education engaging. Vocationization instead of gamification.

  5. toddgeist

    as somebody who has started a Charter School and also another Learning Academy for 6 trough 8 graders, I agree that the incentives in public education are way off. I’d also agree that technology has a role to play.BUT education is not just about filling an empty vessel with facts. It is a social and emotional process, that usually works best in the presence of peers, and committed teachers. Unless Consumer Learning platforms provide incentives for all the stake holders, (IE Kids, Teachers, and Parents and businesses looking to hire employees), they will fail to provide useful results.It isn’t just about delivering a better text book, or better up to date quizes. If theses platform don’t support business models where all stakeholders can thrive, then nothing will change, or it will get worse.To put it another way, I worry that we’ll replace an old out of date bureaucracy with tech platforms that cut out the vital middle players. Just like whats happened with Music. Yes I can get all the music I want, but I have no curators, experts, or people developing talent. If this happens to Education, students will have all the facts they want and nobody to help them make sense of it.Todd

    1. LE

      Yes I can get all the music I want, but I have no curators, experts, or people developing talent.This is a great point. Tech is typically trying to get rid of the middleman except where they can profit by being the middleman. Not sure the best example but Netflix is a case in point. I can go there and Netflix is now the ‘curators, experts, or people developing talent’. [1] Plus they have data on what I like, to be able to tell me what I might like. I actually miss the middleman. I spend to much time DIY w/o someone who would typically take care of details (travel agent). And with music yes I do believe that stars are made not just born. (As the Eagles said about David Geffen ‘he fixed our teeth’).The question is can the learning platforms do the same. Can they find a way to recognize what a human middleman (the teacher, school or counselor (all flawed by the way)) does to be able to notice and push a student in the right direction.[1] Netflix though, so far at least, has failed on figuring out a way to make it easy for me to tell others what I thought was good and for them to tell me what they liked and why. I’ve done that a few times here in ‘comments’ suggesting what I think another commenter might like. But it should be a well oiled machine built into Netflix and much easier to do. Maybe even a public page which anyone can view such as that I can link to.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        On Netflix, like, etc., as you know, my startup is based on giving people URLs of what Internet content they will like. For a little more, each such result is in the context of some one interest of the user. Each interest is in effect defined by the user and is treated as unique in all the world. Right, no predefined interests. Also, no keywords/phrases.The key to like is the meaning of the content. For computer science, discovering the meaning of content is a holy grail problem. But, I’ve found a solution — it’s in production quality code, apparently runs as intended, and is based on some applied math I derived based on some advanced (astounding) pure math prerequisites.IMHO, the Netflix Challenge competition had a very poor formulation of the problem. So, right, my work should do much better than what Netflix has.

    2. Andrew Cashion

      I couldn’t pass econ 101 and was failing because I cant visualize a supply and demand curve well. The course instructor used automated homework which made matters worse.I gave up and was about to fail,however, I right clicked into the source code and found all of the answers in plain text. I then went to an MBA student tutor and checked what I didn’t know.

    3. PhilipSugar

      You left out a big thing. Part of education is literally storing kids during the day when their parents are working. Sorry that is a truth.I have a huge belief there should be a limited time of homework and that should probably only consist of lectures and there should be limits. Why not have a video of Newton talking about physics versus a teacher. All other work should be in the class. I think Kahn academy is the poster child for this.

      1. JLM

        .There are not strong enough words in the English language to express the degree to which I disagree. Class work is an introduction to a lesson and homework is the self-paced, self-learning of that lesson.I have sat on the board of private schools and a major college. I have taught at the college level (one year) and been a visiting lecturer at 4 different schools (part time). In every instance, the single greatest indicator of success is the manner in which the student invests her time in studying.I have seen mediocre students become class leaders by the manner in which they have attacked their homework. I have seen students make the tough decision to study and, thereby, forego more pleasant undertakings.Having said that, I sent my children to the most difficult private school in the area and used to raise Hell about how much homework they had. When they went to college, it was a breeze because they arrived with three important skills:First, they knew how to study and to do a lot of it in a short period of time.Second, they knew how to write a coherent bit of wordsmithing.Third, they had begun to think critically.The idea of no homework is a harbinger and an error of our “everybody gets a trophy” incipient softness. Education is the great leveler and the effort within that opportunity is the great balancer. Education is the arena in which all men are created equal.I arrived in college as a truly mediocre student. Wiseass. I was a B student, at best. [I was good at Latin and math].At VMI, they broke me into little pieces, gave me a faculty adviser, gave me a senior mentor, threw me into the deep end of the classroom in engineering. As they rebuilt me, they forced me to study. Every night from 6:00 PM to 1:00 AM – seven days a week during my first semester. I never saw one minute of television in those 4 years. I never drank a Coke in my first year.My faculty adviser used to check on me three times a week.That first year, I was #1 in my class. It was very unusual for a civil engineer to be at the top. Usually English and History majors. How was that possible? Homework. I was not a natively bright person, but I was a relentless plodder who would come earlier, stay later, work harder.Homework.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Richard

          You are mostly correct but Philip’s points have some merit. In an ideal world the school day should be 10 hours. 3 hours of instruction, 1.5 hours of homework, 1 hour of physical education, 30 minutes for lunch, followed by 3.5 hours of instruction or hands on art work, shop class, computer programming etc. (depending on interests).

          1. JLM

            .You have another 30 minutes, right?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Richard

            ha! went back and forth between adding it to lunch vs 2nd half of day. Thoughts on dividing eduction by gender for most of the day? It beginning to make more and more sense to me.

          3. JLM

            .I am a huge fan of single gender education. ATX has a girls only public school and the girls are the leaders in everything. I think it is good for both girls and boys.The girls really blossom.It prevents that sophomore phenomenon whereby a girl allows the QB on the football team to lower her IQ fifteen points.My Perfect Daughter won 11 varsity letters in HS. I told her not to listen to any boy who didn’t have more varsity letters.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. Adam Sher

          File this under learning to complete tasks that are unpleasant, repeatedly, over a long period of time. I did that in one area (piano under severe external pressure) and didn’t have the mental stamina (more likely I was immature) to apply that to coursework. I never found extrinsic pressure, and did not have the intrinsic drive, to propel me to study that much. In particular, the cutthroat nature of many of the classes I took early in college seemed counterproductive and turned me off.High-quantity of homework detracts from other useful practices such as becoming expert in art or sports. I agree more with Philip.

          1. JLM

            .Have you made a living in either art or sports?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Adam Sher

            No, I am not paid for my art or my athletic performance. With that said, I’m a tournament tennis player. This is a few levels below professional tennis but high on the amateur chain. My ability in tennis allowed me to meet and befriend a lot of people whom now are critical people to know for my startup. My tennis network was one of the two major attributes that affords my company a better chance to reach profitability.

          3. PhilipSugar

            My point is this. You can get a teacher that gives out an inordinate amount of homework. I’m not saying no homework.So now can the child cut lawns (I have well documented my first business with five kids which taught me how to sell and technology)???No.Can the child participate in Lego league where they learn to program?No.Sports, Chess, Yard work, beekeeping, boating, fishing, crabbing, flying drones and yes my son’s passion gunsmithing can they get done?No.How about just spending an hour with Mom or Dad just relaxing? (I do from 8pm to 9pm before going to bed each night)No.I don’t want some teacher giving three hours of homework for their class a night. How much time do they spend doing that homework?Answer None.Want to know the leading Robotics professor in the U.S.? Look up my brother Thomas. Top rated at the largest engineering school in the U.S. Even he will say, there is this guy at Georgia Tech that absolutely kicks ass at control theory. He has students watch his lectures.

          4. Adam Sher

            I understand your point and we are in agreement. Also, your avatar reminds me of the character Cyril Figgis (voiced by Chris Parnell). https://uploads.disquscdn.c

          5. PhilipSugar

            I know we are. You know we all got avatars done a long time ago.I must look like the “typical middle aged white guy” I get people telling me all of the time they think they know me or know somebody that must be my brother.

          6. sigmaalgebra

            In part, I agree. Still, learning algebra, plane geometry, trigonometry, solid geometry, calculus, linear algebra, physics, chemistry, optimization, statistics, and control theory require study alone, e.g., doing homework.I’ve read about cases of some K-12 programs trying to do really well and, thus, letting each teacher assign lots of homework, so much that some of the good students end up seriously sleep deprived. If this is what you are objecting to, then you are correct. Yes, so much homework will also push out other important parts of growing up — bummer.Gee, I thought that the control theory guy was D. Bertsekas or some years ago, M. Athans!! Should also count P. Falb. The related GA Tech guy I knew was G. Nemhauser.I’m unsure of just what the interest in control theory is now. That is, I’m not seeing high interest in applications. I’m seeing a lot of hype about AI/ML that in comparison is baby stuff in Pampers.One of the recent Fed Chairs did mention an interest in control theory.My research in deterministic optimization and in stochastic optimal control are in or close to classic control theory. Of course the Black-Scholes work and related exotic options are examples of stochastic optimal control.For my research, I did handle the issue of measurable selection — totally blow the minds of the AI people!!!

        3. JamesHRH

          You have been to humble in this post for me to take a direct pot shot at the Civil.

        4. sigmaalgebra

          VMI gave you some high quality teaching. Likely it was expensive but worth much more than what it cost.

          1. JLM

            .I was lost and VMI found me. Their system has been the same since 1839. They disassemble you, crush the parts, humble you, and then rebuild you one step at a time. Then they fire you in a hot furnace which makes whatever you do thereafter seem easy.I never really got why they made the first year – Rat year – so difficult. Insanely difficult. Until I got in the Army and I was trying to make life and death decisions at the speed of light. Because of the Rat Line, I was capable of doing it under pressure. I surprised myself at how easy it was.VMI – a hard place to be, a good place to be from, run by demanding, mean as shit adults who know exactly what the fuck they’re doing and have since 1839.I paid $0 for my education at the undergrad level. Tuition, room, board (chow was a little suspect), uniforms, laundry, furniture, supplies (including lead for my pencil) — all covered.In addition, they paid me $250/month which was a lot of money in the 1960s.I did have to go in the Army for 4 years (combat engineer, Airborne, Ranger plus a bunch of Army schools), go in harms way, serve overseas. Of course, I came from a military family and never conceived that I would not serve.I got “stop lossed” when I put in my resignation and had to serve another 15 months because my MOS and security clearance was in short supply after the end of the Vietnam war.I also got the the GI Bill. The grad school took my stipend in full payment of tuition though the tuition was much more than the stipend.I was quite the gov’t sugar tit suckler. One of the reasons I am a huge liberal on free education – as long as it leads to a job and there is a pay back feature.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. sigmaalgebra

            From VMI through the Army and graduate school, you ended up with a good education quite broadly and, from civil engineering, a good career.It strikes me that this stuff of education going past teaching the material is short on justification. For breaking a student down and putting them back together, that is risky — seriously risky as in cause stress enough to cause clinical depression, burn out, and possibly suicide. At least at VMI the teachers were TRYING to help the students instead of what otherwise is too common — a sadistic effort to destroy students instead of help them.When I was in grades 1-6, the teachers treated me like dirt, with contempt, with occasional humiliations for no good reason in front of the whole class. The teachers really liked the girls; the best the boys did was just be quiet.I had to conclude that the teachers so disliked me that I had to defend myself from enemy attackers.Starting in the 9th grade, in math and science, I found a way to defend myself: I really could learn the material, often mostly just alone from the textbook. Then knowing the material, on tests, especially state given achievement tests, I did well, and no teacher could claim otherwise.In K-12, there was a lot of teacher gossip; thus, each year after the first, on the first day of school I was already behind.Big payback came with my Math SAT score: The teacher, same I’d had in the sixth grade, who read me my SAT scores was shocked and said “There must be some mistake.” The school was intended to be by far the best in the city; 97% of the graduates went on to college; and there were a lot of good students. On the Math SAT of #1, #2, #3, I was #2, and that’s why the teacher thought there must be some “mistake”. Uh, #3 went to MIT. In a sense, she was correct; the “mistake” was that she and the other teachers had treated me like dirt for 12 years.While the school tried to be good, in the most important sense it was not: With much better teaching, a lot of the students could have done MUCH better. I did well with the math and science they presented, but I could easily with great joy have done MUCH better.Net, for a good education for a good student, say, top 10, 5, or 1%, apparently the parents have to be essentially experts in education and guide their children. That is, even in a school the whole city wants to be good, the top 10% or so of the students are still getting only about 10% of the education they easily could and definitely should get.Too often, education abuses a lot of the students. I finally got the abuse to stop in grad school; on a little two week project, I solved a long outstanding problem in the tricky Kuhn-Tucker conditions and also got a nice result of high generality. Clearly the work was publishable; later I did publish it. Then, with this work, presto, bingo, the abuse stopped. Three keys to stopping abuse in grad school, in no particular order, publish, publish, publish. I hadn’t known that.There is still a loose end in that work!!! I had a problem and wanted to show that a continuously differentiable function could exist as a solution. Well I had that, for any positive integer k, a k-times continuously differentiable function could exist. I was guessing that, then, under some fairly general circumstances an infinitely differentiable function should also exist. Sure, a first cut guess at a proof would be some duality and/or closure argument. I did get an infinitely differentiable function for my particular problem but by a particular argument instead of a general one. So, the loose end still exists!!Some of the abuse: There was an advanced, second or third, course in linear algebra, and the prof’s specialty was that field. I’d never had an actual course in that subject but had carefully studied two of the best texts, E. Nearing, an E. Artin student at Princeton, and P. Halmos, a J. Doob student from UIL and assistant to von Neumann. The Halmos book is intended as an introduction to von Neumann’s Hilbert space theory. I’d used or carefully studied several books on applications in multi-variate statistics, numerical methods and related software, and other applications, e.g., signal processing. I’d worked through the first half, the mathematical part, of von Neumann’s Quantum Mechanics. I’d carefully written my own notes, close to a book. Just before the class, to review, in an evening I wrote out from memory about 80% of the course.So, in the course, no surprise, I blew away all the other students. When the prof got to the polar decomposition [i.e., any complex, square matrix A can be written as UH where U is unitary and H positive definite Hermitian; super nice result.] –…I got so excited I blurted out in class “That’s my favorite result!”. The prof got flustered and never finished the proof. That I already knew the result well must have scared the other students. On the associated qualifying exam, I did the best in the class (did the best on 4 of the 5 exams, and for the fifth had already done the research for my dissertation).So, my success pissed off the prof: He wanted a filtering, flunk out course, and I was perfect on all the huge stack of graded homework and nearly perfect on all the tests; the course was no challenge for me except for the sleep I lost writing out the homework, without reference to the course. E.g., commonly I did the linear algebra derivations as if they were Hilbert space (that is, infinite dimensional instead of just the finite dimensions of linear algebra) results.The prof wanted to get his jollies, his “enthusiasms”, flunking out students. Bummer.Less than 10% of the entering students left with Ph.D. degrees. I was one who did; for nearly all the entering students, the program was a blood bath. A lot of really good students were seriously hurt all for no good reason. Maybe I didn’t get hurt because due to the K-6 abuse, I’d already grown a quite thick skin against teacher abuse — so, being abused was not a surprise; due to the teacher abuse, I had long since been working for my own, usually much higher, goals and not really for praise from the teachers so was not disappointed at teacher abuse instead of praise. With such a program, the students learn mostly on their own, and the teachers are enemies to be avoided or defended against.E.g., I never got any personal, positive feedback from the linear algebra prof. The grader, however, about 3/4ths the way through the course, took me aside and asked:”Do you know how well you are doing in the course?”Curious question; I thought I was doing at least okay. Then the grader showed me the class scores so far on homework, the tests, and the midterm — I was totally blowing away all the other students.Big Lesson: A teacher has a lot of power over a student, and something too close to sadistic abuse is too common.

        5. PhilipSugar

          You did not read my post. I did not say no homework. I said limited. And I said that when you think about it the non interactive: listening to a lecture can be done alone, areas that benefit from interaction i.e. solving problems should be done in class. My point is no different than MikeZ. Let’s say one teacher gives a ton of homework. Maybe some crappy in my mind arts and crafts things. Then you can’t get done math.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        > You left out a big thing. Part of education is literally storing kids during the day when their parents are working. Sorry that is a truth.Yup.> I have a huge belief there should be a limited time of homework and that should probably only consist of lectures and there should be limits.Nope, not even close, really bad.> I think Kahn academy is the poster child for this.Intensely really bad: I hold a good Ph.D. in applied math, stochastic optimal control, from one of the world’s best research universities, and nearly all my reviews of math on Khan Academy come up with a grade of at best F and usually much lower due to the material doing positive harm.In academics, quality (A) is crucially important and (B) somehow very difficult to achieve. Khan Academy has no chance of achieving quality.Here is a short, profound point: In serious fields, e.g., the STEM fields, medicine, law, finance, learning is not a spectator sport. Instead, learning also requires working with the material.Sure, in K-6, the teacher keeps pushing the students to learn. There is a lot of class time teaching with not so much emphasis on homework. In 7-12 and college, there are lectures and texts, students need to learn from both, especially as homework from the texts, but students are not pushed very hard and are permitted to neglect learning. For Ph.D. qualifying exams, the learning becomes important again, and lectures are much less important. E.g., at least at one time, the Web site of the Princeton math department just flatly stated, IIRC, that “Courses are introductions to research by experts in their fields. No courses are given for preparation for the qualifying exams. Students are expected to prepare for the qualifying exams on their own.” Then for the future, especially in research, continual learning is crucial, and then good lectures might not exist or might be difficult to find, good texts might not exist, and it is necessary to work from scattered sources, do a lot of derivations for ones self, etc.Lesson: From K-12 through a career based on knowledge, people must depend on study alone more and more. Good lectures are much better than bad ones, but often good lectures don’t exist and even when they do starting in, say, grade 7 they are not enough.In particular, horribly low quality in math is one of the biggest problems for the future of computing: Computing got past the syntax specifications of Bachus-Naur form (really, just a rewrite of set theory for strings of characters), compiling, linking, quicksort and the rest of the common algorithms and data structures, and some more. Then for still more, computer science got into applied math: The applied math needs computing, so … the computing people thought that they could do applied math. Nope. Instead in nearly all cases, the computer science community, including chaired profs at some of the best research universities, nearly always make a train wreck out of math.What the computer science (CS) people are missing in math is simple — a good ugrad major in pure math and the coursework in pure/applied math for a math Ph.D.I know; I know; each night the best CS people put a math book under their pillow so that the knowledge can be transferred via diffusion. Judging from the math the CS people write, that diffusion process is slow!It’s true: The good future of CS is via applied math; it’s just sad that the CS people don’t have the prerequisites.

    4. Richard

      I fundamentally disagree with Fred’s self teaching meme. The skill of the teacher is the principal component to education. Quiz cards and the like are simply a means of memorizing the knowledge.

  6. Ronnie Rendel

    Thanks Quzlet for a great inspiration for a Kabbalah learning portal we’ve been playing around with. Have you any thoughts on the use of inter-student experiences as a “value added” tp traditional self lead learning?What about crypto-economic incentives? Personally, Udemy, Courera, – & AVC have changed my career and product trajectory in a very positive way. Thanks.

  7. Jordan Jackson

    An interesting nuance here Fred. It makes me think of Amazon being “customer centric” instead of retail centric. Seems like relentless focus on the “educated” as opposed to the “educator” would create demand, forcing the “educators” to adapt or get over taken completely.

    1. JamesHRH

      Good take on Amazon.

  8. sigmaalgebra

    Main points:(1) Learning. For serious fields, e.g., the STEM fields, medicine, law, learning is not spectator sport, and students need to do most of the work for learning alone.(2) Quality. A huge issue is quality: We are awash in materials of astoundingly high quality, but there is a much, much larger quantity of total junk materials.(3) Commercial Efforts. As best I can tell, at all the commercial efforts at helping people learn, e.g. Khan Academy, the quality is from near zero down to deeply negative and actually harmful.(4) Guidance. Mostly people who want to learn have lots of means. For more, at most they could use just some guidance on what good materials to use when.E.g., for one Web site claiming to teach a foreign language, tried their lessons in German. Horrible — lots of questions about grammar and no answers. So I just got out the text, excellent, I used in German in college, reviewed German grammar, quickly, returned to the Web site, and quickly gave up because they weren’t teaching me anything. I got the grammar MUCH faster and much, much better just in the little text.Net, for me, for more in German, should I need that, I just need to learn more vocabulary and common word usage.For the foreign language requirement of my Ph.D., I used German, used the text to brush up on grammar, and translated a paper in applied math. Worked fine.For a foreign language, I like German better than French because the grammar is easier and more cleanly defined and the spelling makes really good sense.

  9. Thierry Ascarez

    Great podcast, especially when Matt addresses the issue of AI not replacing traditional education or teachers/educators but empowering them as well as the human factor essential to education.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      That video is interesting but too often a bit too negative.For the main thoughts there, IMHO a better description is from J. Dewey, Democracy and Education IIRC:Education is the passing down the culture of the older generation to the younger one.So, implicit in this definition/observation is that what gets passed down is both good features and bad flaws. Maybe hopefully at each generation there is some filtering and improvement in what gets passed down.This definition does not distinguish between what is passed down on average and what might be passed down in some particular cases, e.g., home schooling by well educated parents. And, now, with so much information available on the Internet, there can be many more, and more interesting, cases of passing down.Higher education used to be a lifetime license for a cushy job based mostly on privilege instead of merit. IIRC, one of the goals of the SATs was to make college admissions based more on merit.But with the situation of a lifetime license of a cushy job, there were relatively loose constraints on what got taught.Even back in those old days, there was some just crucial material taught in higher education in, say, the STEM fields and medicine.Now there is another requirement: The students need to make good use, i.e., money, of their expensive educations in their careers. Apparently quite broadly in the US, this requirement means that a student should in their career own a long lasting business, get one from his family or start one. So far the schools, including even the B-schools, are quite light on teaching for this requirement.