How teaching a free online class changed this prof’s life

If you have a spare 20 minutes to get choked up, listen to this talk by Stanford University computer scientist Sebastian Thrun. (Skip the intro – Thrun starts talking 2:27 min. into the video.)

As I said in my last post, last fall Thrun helped teach a free online Artificial Intelligence class that drew in 160,000 students. In this video Thrun explains how that experience made him rethink his teaching career. He was inspired by the e-mails he got from students all over the world about how he was changing their lives. And when one student’s father berated him for teaching a “weeder” class (to weed out the weaker students) he realized that too often he asked tough questions that would stump the students so that he “would come to their rescue and make (him) look smart.”

So he changed how he structured the class, using questions and quizzes to help the students learn the material and to give everyone a chance at a perfect score. And he was inspired to start his new online venture Udacity, for bringing more free online classes to the world.

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