Not displaying correctly? View it in a browser

MOOCs for good

Lately there's been a ton of press around massive open online courses. MOOCs are a "tsunami," a "seismic shift"; the New York Times says 2012 is the "year of the MOOC."

People are right to be excited. But why?

Much of the recent coverage focuses on numbers: the dozens of top-shelf universities putting their professors online through Coursera, the 160,000 students who enrolled in Udacity’s Artificial Intelligence course, the 100,000+ students who signed up for Harvard’s first edX courses.

But the enrollment isn’t the important part. “Massive” as they are, MOOCs still represent a nearly zero percentage of for-profit college courses, and even less when you judge them by the students who actually finish the course rather than just register (22,000 for Udacity’s AI course).

The real reason people are so excited about MOOCs is not because of what they are now, but because of the disruptive power that they represent. Education has always had an access problem. People intuitively understand that creating video versions of the world’s great classroom experiences (and I’m not necessarily saying that today’s MOOCs are the world’s great classroom experiences, but they could be forerunners) means we can solve this problem.

Online courses taught by highly exceptional teachers can now be shared with anyone regardless of circumstance. In wealthy nations, such courses can be used as supplements or offer subjects that students typically don’t have access to (how many US schools teach Mandarin?).

Actually getting this vision accomplished is almost impossibly difficult work. I believe that doing so is the single most important thing that the human race can accomplish in the next 20 years.

-Jose Ferreira, Knewton Founder and CEO

Ping pong, snacks, and segways

Writes Tarik, a Knewton data science intern from Princeton: “I have to admit, I’ve always been a little skeptical of the idea of the ‘fun-loving tech startup’ — companies full of geeks playing ping-pong. The idea that a pampering environment could lead to wild success in the great internet frontier always seemed a bit trite. Weren’t these really just a bunch of geeks who got lucky, now attributing their success to some nebulous inspiration found between the primary-colored walls of their offices?” Read more on the Knewton blog.

We’re thinking about our fellow New Yorkers and tri-state neighbors still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. If you’d like to help out, here are a few ways to find volunteer opportunities or donate goods:

Knewton HQ was without power for a week following the storm. Like other Silicon Alley startups, our team managed to keep things rolling despite our lack of a physical office; Knerds without power found internet (and heat!) at the homes of team members in unaffected areas. We’re also happy to report that our East and West Coast data centers operated without trouble during the storm.

Knewton is on a mission to personalize education for the world. We’re looking for software engineers, data scientists, and others to join our team.

See all open jobs, or enter cheat mode.

What they do: EverFi is the leading edtech company dedicated to educating students in what they call "critical life skills” — also known as the real world. EverFi's areas of focus include financial literacy, student loan management, digital literacy and cyberbullying, substance abuse prevention, and civic education. More than 4500 K-12 schools and institutions of higher education now use EverFi learning platforms.

Says EverFi’s CEO Tom Davidson: "Our platform is something of a blend between Xbox, virtual reality, and Facebook, designed to arm students with the skill-sets to make smart decisions about their finances, their drinking, their online behavior, and more. If we succeed, we can quite literally change the trajectory of the lives of millions of students. It’s important that we do.”

Why we like them: Not only is EverFi using tech to scale practical education programs for students — they're doing it at no cost to K-12 schools. The company partners with corporations and foundations that sponsor use of EverFi’s SaaS applications in local schools and communities. Plus, EverFi is committed to using data to continually improve the teacher and student experience. The platform tracks student progress and measures changes in students’ attitudes and behaviors on these critical topics.

What does the future of education look like? Check out this video featuring our Founder and CEO Jose alongside Daphne Koller, Seth Godin, and other great thinkers.

More edtech buzz

At a high-tech school, supportive adults are the real key to success (The Atlantic)

How do you stop online students cheating? (BBC)

At technology high school, goal isn’t to finish in four years (The New York Times)