Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Next Challenge

"Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?" - Steve Jobs
I will be joining the software engineering team at Coursera starting next week. Coursera was my first choice among all possible employers, so I'm thrilled to be able to make that announcement. 

The decision process was short and easy. I asked myself, "five years from now, what is going to be the result of all my time and hard work?". If Coursera is successful, my efforts will help millions of people will get a quality education that otherwise wouldn't have one. That's an awesome legacy to boast of.

Education is a major challenge and opportunity for the global economy. The high-paying, low-skilled jobs of the past are getting eaten up by robots and software. More than ever, an education is the ticket to the good life. 

But the barriers to education are growing higher, not shrinking. The cost of college has shot up way faster than overall inflation or income. And more degree seekers means more competition for the limited slots at good schools. To fill the gap between supply and demand, low-quality schools have swept in to take the money of the disenfranchised while providing little value in return.

Brightening this bleak landscape, experiments with online courses at Stanford University showed that information technology can be used to scale the classroom to hundreds of thousands of students at a time. Since then, multiple companies have started to expand on this model, shattering the barriers that prevent the masses from sharing the same education as the lucky, rich, and elite.

Perhaps most heartening is the large number of third-world citizens taking advantage of the top-rate first-world education being offered through these online platforms. The egalitarian promise of the global web is finally becoming reality in education. 

Out of all the online higher-ed companies, Coursera stands out for their ability to move fast and to execute on the vision. The business development team has closed partnerships with a dozen top universities, enabling them to use the prestigious brands of university partners in their web classrooms. Handicapping the market right now, no company stands a better chance than Coursera of harnessing the brainpower, prestige, and capital of the traditional education system to create a futuristic, post-scarcity learning platform.

Coursera owes its early success to co-CEOs Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University's AI department. Daphne's TED talk is an inspiring introduction to the world of online education:

So I'm happy to be joining a great team working on an important problem. I'm in the right place at the right time and it feels good. Five years from now, people will struggle to remember when education was an elite, expensive commodity enjoyed by a few. I'm looking forward to being a part of that revolution. 

If you take online courses and have any feedback on how we can make them better, please drop me a comment or email. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi jacob...your blog is very interesting,,i am harsono from Indonesia, i also join Coursera and take many advantages from that site,,hopefully, it would be continued,until everyone in the world can access this program. fyi, here in indonesia one of the barrier to join coursera is about internet access. you know, here the internet penetration is still small only who live in the city can get internet access. maybe this problem is also exist in many developing countries. anyway,,keep writing and share,,:)