According to Thomas Friedman, there’s a revolution coming in post K12 education and he uses this “rather charming” explanation from Andrew Ng, associate professor of computer science at Stanford and cofounder of the online course delivery company Coursera, to illustrate his point.

“I normally teach 400 students,” Ng explained, but last semester he taught 100,000 in an online course on machine learning. “To reach that many students before,” he said, “I would have had to teach my normal Stanford class for 250 years.”

Friedman raves about this approach, saying that it would give more students access to “quality higher education” at a cost that’s much lower than the fast-rising price of attending in person.

He also marvels that this would “enable budget-strained community colleges in America to “flip” their classrooms” by having students watch recordings of “the world’s best lecturers on any subject”.

However, is that what people want from a college education? Can you call what Ng does “teaching”, or is it more about managing a large group of self-directed learners? For someone who isn’t self-directed, is the only alternative then accumulating a pile of student loans?

As someone who wasn’t thrilled by most of my undergraduate classes in college and actually likes self-directed learning, this is not judgement, just questions.

I also wonder, just as college-level classes were pushed down into high school in the form of the AP program, when will this type of massive approach to instruction arrive for us here in K12?

A district accountant somewhere is probably already thinking that one teacher working with only 150 kids per year sounds awfully expensive.