Which questions about online classes would you ask Peter Norvig?

by [anonymous]1 min read18th Sep 20126 comments

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Personal Blog

A week ago Google launched an open source project called Course Builder it packages the software and technology used to build their July Class Power Searching with Google. The discussion forum for it is here. Tomorrow is the first live hangout where he will be answering questions about MOOC design and technical aspects of using Course Builder. The live hangout will is scheduled for the 26th of September.

Helping the World to Teach



In July, Research at Google ran a large open online course, Power Searching with Google, taught by search expert, Dan Russell. The course was successful, with 155,000 registered students. Through this experiment, we learned that Google technologies can help bring education to a global audience. So we packaged up the technology we used to build Power Searching and are providing it as an open source project called Course Builder. We want to make this technology available so that others can experiment with online learning.

The Course Builder open source project is an experimental early step for us in the world of online education. It is a snapshot of an approach we found useful and an indication of our future direction. We hope to continue development along these lines, but we wanted to make this limited code base available now, to see what early adopters will do with it, and to explore the future of learning technology. We will be hosting a community building event in the upcoming months to help more people get started using this software. edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms.

We are excited that Stanford University, Indiana University, UC San Diego, Saylor.org, LearningByGivingFoundation.org, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), and a group of universities in Spain led by Universia, CRUE, and Banco Santander-Universidades are considering how this experimental technology might work for some of their online courses. Sebastian Thrun at Udacity welcomes this new option for instructors who would like to create an online class, while Daphne Koller at Coursera notes that the educational landscape is changing and it is exciting to see new avenues for teaching and learning emerge. We believe Google’s preliminary efforts here may be useful to those looking to scale online education through the cloud.

Along with releasing the experimental open source code, we’ve provided documentation and forums for anyone to learn how to develop and deploy an online course like Power Searching. In addition, over the next two weeks we will provide educators the opportunity to connect with the Google team working on the code via Google Hangouts. For access to the code, documentation, user forum, and information about the Hangouts, visit the Course Builder Open Source Project Page. To see what is possible with the Course Builder technology register for Google’s next version of Power Searching. We invite you to explore this brave new world of online learning with us.

A small group of us has been working on related matters but we are far from done reviewing the relevant literature. Not having any good questions yet, I thought what harm might there be in asking for the broader community to come up with a few questions! If Norvig has answered your questions in some of his other existing material that I've reviewed I'll respond with a link.

 

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The biggest obvious flaw with online education, from what I can tell, is that it's harder to keep people motivated when they're doing their work from their living room, and/or aren't literally surrounded by peers working on the same projects, and don't have as personal a connection with their teacher.

What existing tools do we have to combat this and how well do they work, and are there alternatives in development?

I'm no Peter Norvig, but this is the discussion section after all....

One tool that may or may not have a place in online education is gamification. To put a long story short, the gaming industry has gotten plenty of practice motivating people to keep going, even at tasks that wouldn't necessarily be the most interesting. Other industries have finally noticed this, and started trying it out to see which concepts from gaming carry over well to other fields. I don't personally know of any research specific to education, but would be interested if anything relevant was found

An enthusiastic, low-level introduction to gamifying education: http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/gamifying-education

Perhaps it would be good to remind people that "learning online" is not a synonym for "learning alone". There are a few ways to learn together. The difficult part is to find people who want to learn the same thing at the same time.

1) People can watch the online lessons together; literally in the same room, looking at the same computer screen. If the computer gives you questions, first write your answers on a piece of paper, and when everyone has an answer written, show each other your answers, optionally discuss, and then write some result on a computer.

2) People can agree to do one lesson online alone, then meet and discuss that one lesson together. Or they can have one meeting per N lessons, or simply meet when necessary -- but at least once, at the end of the course. (You could use a Google spreadsheet to write who has completed which lessons, and who wants to discuss which lesson.)

For small children, parents can do (1) with them, or arrange (2) with other parents.

No question just a comment: I took their AI class and dropped it in short order. Norvig and Thrun are seriously fucking awful teachers. The guy who did the machine learning class was quite good, however.

[-][anonymous]9y 3

Norvig and Thrun are seriously fucking awful teachers.

I enjoyed the AI class a lot, possibly just because I find Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun fucking awesome in general or because it was my first exposure to AI in general. Though yeah Ng's class was better done overal, his experience with giving online lectures showed and the programming exercises where great.