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Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, UoPeople - Are the Floodgates for Free Education Finally Open?
It’s all but a secret these days that online education has developed itself into a hot market as founders, developers and investors get attracted to the vertical and now take it more serious than some 2 years ago.
What many people have criticized so far was a reluctance from most of the top universities to have serious ambitions and invest in innovative online programs both paid and free.
Personally, I have always been careful of judging them too quickly. My point of view was that they were simply waiting for the right moment. Understandably, top universities have a reputation to maintain and their bread and butter are their graduate programs. Costly, for sure, but still almost a guarantee to find a good job later on.
The reasoning is complex, but it is obvious that those institutions won’t play around with online courses just for the sake of having a program online, unless they are very sure how to set it up and what they want to achieve.
It seems that this moment has finally come. Just a few days ago, we thought the $16 million Higher Education startup Coursera scored were so cool, to paraphrase the Social Network here.
Coursera is the brainchild of Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng who have built a platform to the world for free. Their high quality courses are developed in partnerships with some of the world’s leading schools and universities, e.g. Stanford, Princeton, University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. If you are interested in learning more about the founders’ motivation to take their teaching outside of the traditional auditorium I recommend you listen to the interview I and my colleague Christopher Dawson of ZDNet had the pleasure to do with Ng and Koller.
Events are moving fast these days in online higher ed. If $16 million were cool just some days ago, now $60 million are.
Harvard and MIT announced their collaboration on the open-source edX project to potentially educate a billion of people from around the world. The well-known MITx technology will serve as the platform for the new and free online courses set to start next fall. The initiative is set up as a not-for-profit, Harvard and MIT both committed to invest $ 30 million each.
It is interesting to see that now as these top universities decided the time has come to go online, a considerable financial commitment probably was the least of a problem. $ 60 million show seriousness and dedication, to finance the partnership completely out of their own pockets guarantees that all decision-making is only going to come out of MIT and Harvard themselves and independency is always a good thing.
The new free courses are not going to eat the existing business-models as students will “only” get a certificate of mastery not a real degree.
You can find a good article with all details on GigaOm.
In the announcement the much hyped (and rightfully so) Khan Academy is named as an inspiration. Also a not-for-profit I would agree to see Khan himself and the academy he has built as a pioneer of this movement to teach the world through online video along with quizzes and other features, may it be K12 focused like the Khan Academy is or more recently the new initiatives in higher education.
What I see as an interesting point is the immediate success of these online classes coming out of Stanford, MIT and Harvard with hundreds of thousands of people signing up in just a few days or weeks. It took Salman Khan significantly longer to get to those numbers in video views what tells us that attraction to a big name along with the quality of teaching it promises is still unbowed, with or without a certificate.
An interesting study comes to my mind. Glenda Morgan of the University of Illinois did research on how students search for educational content on the internet.
The results are highly interesting and somewhat surprising. Students prefer content from a recognized brand such as such Stanford or MIT largely over content from the Khan Academy. I invite you to read the full article here.
I will leave you with one more thought about the money. Admittedly, a little over-simplified but what MIT and Harvard basically say is that it takes $60 million to teach one billion people. Coursera took $16 million as initial venture funding which will likely not be their only round of funding as Daphne Koller told me at the end of our interview that there were many more VCs who wanted to offer them money and the challenge was more to pick the right ones than experiencing difficulties to get funding at all.
Opposite to that I would like to make you aware of article on the University of the People and its founder Shai Reshef in which he states that it was possible to educate the world with just $ 6 million.
Whether it is going to be $6, $16, $60 million or a completely different number, in the end what really matters is that access to quality courses and teaching has finally started to become a reality for the masses.
Photo: via Shutterstock
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From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.