The Chronicle of Higher Education: Stanford Professor Gives Up Teaching Position, Hopes to Reach 500,000 Students at Online Start-Up
... Sebastian Thrun, a research professor of computer science at Stanford, revealed today that he had given up his teaching role at the institution to found Udacity, a start-up offering low-cost online classes. He made the surprising announcement during a presentation at the Digital–Life–Design conference, in Munich, Germany. The development was first reported earlier today by Reuters.
During his talk, Mr. Thrun explored the origins of his popular online course at Stanford, which initially featured videos produced with nothing more than “a camera, a pen, and a napkin.” Despite the low production quality, many of the 200 Stanford students taking the course in the classroom flocked to the videos because they could absorb the lectures at their own pace. Eventually, the 200 students taking the course in person dwindled to a group of 30. Meanwhile, the course’s popularity exploded online, drawing students from around the world. The experience taught the professor that he could craft a course with the interactive tools of the Web that recreated the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring, he said.
Mr. Thrun told the crowd his move had been motivated in part by teaching practices that evolved too slowly to be effective. During the era when universities were born, “the lecture was the most effective way to convey information. We had the industrialization, we had the invention of celluloid, of digital media, and, miraculously, professors today teach exactly the same way they taught a thousand years ago,” he said.
He concluded by telling the crowd that he couldn’t continue teaching in a traditional setting. “Having done this, I can’t teach at Stanford again,” he said. ...