Posts from Distance Learning

What Is The Net Native Model?

My partner Brad is fond of reminding us at USV that taking the offline model for something and porting it to the web is not often the best way to build a business online.

John Markoff's piece in the New York Times on online education got me thinking about that this morning. MOOCs are all the rage in the online ed world these days. And most of the MOOCs I have used remind me a lot of the traditional classroom model of teaching. The question I am noodling is if there is a better way to teach when you have tens of thousands of people wanting to learn something that you can teach them.

John contrasts the MOOC model to our portfolio company DuoLingo in his piece. He says:

there are early indications that the high interactivity and personalized feedback of online education might ultimately offer a learning structure that can’t be matched by the traditional classroom.

Although DuoLingo was built by one of the most popular teachers at Carnegie Mellon, there are no teachers in their learning model. It's all software, content, and users. Now maybe language learning is easier to teach this way than other things. I don't have a fully formed opinion on this. I am just thinking outloud.

But what we have seen over and over again is that taking a model that was optimized for the analog world and porting it to the internet is almost always suboptimal. And that the person or team that finds the optimal model for the internet is almost always the one who ends up with the big win.

And I think that will be true in education as well.

#hacking education

Sal Khan's Academy

My friend Diana Rhoten wrote this about Waiting For Superman:

I don’t believe the solutions to today’s education crisis are going to come in the form of traditional policies alone. I believe we need to reframe the problem and the conversation, from one about re-forming schooling to one about re-thinking education and re-imagining learning.

This is a massive, radical design challenge.

The title of her post is We are not Waiting for Superman, We are Empowering Superheroes.

Certainly one of the Superheroes of Diana's "massive, radical design challenge" is Sal Khan. For those of you who are not familiar with the Khan Academy, please go visit it. It is the ugliest website this side of Craigslist, but don't get hung up with that. Behind an ugly front end lies something incredible.

Sal has pretty much single handedly created over 1800 videos on all sorts of subjects (but with a heavy bent on math and science). At this very moment there are >2500 people learning at the Khan Academy. The chartbeat for the Khan Academy is here.

This is a worldwide classroom. The >2500 people learning at Khan Academy right now live here:

Kahn snapshot

I am not suggesting that Sal Khan's Academy is "the solution" to education problem. But it is an awesome hack and one that I am certain will turn into a hugely valuable web service in time. It is entirely possible that Khan's Academy will be a kind of Wikipedia for education. In a way it already is.

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#hacking education#Web/Tech