Insights · August 8th, 2012

Free education was once a laughable unreality. How do you get people to teach for free? If you can’t pay T.A.s how do you maintain constant grading with expanding class sizes? In this inspirational Ted Talk Daphne Koller illustrates the possibility of free, high quality education for everyone in the world.

Here are the top 5 main characteristics of the free online education platform, Coursera:

  • You get what you put into it. Every student has to engage with the material to move on through the course—unlike in a physical classroom when you have the option to listen absentmindedly (interacting WITH the student is far better than lecturing AT them)
  • Technology speeds things up. The platform uses advanced technology to grade homework of all kinds; including math, models, and short answer questions. This takes the T.A. out of the equation, allowing for expedited and abundant grading.
  • Global reach. Hosting courses online provide universal access to high quality education.
  • High quality education. Classes that are offered come from various prestigious universities like Rice, UW, Duke, Stanford, Penn, and Princeton.
  • Certificates offer credibility. Upon completion of courses on Coursera, certificates are awarded to students who pass. Certificates can be exchanged for credits at some colleges and universities.

Near the end of her Talk, Koller   reminds us that “We can’t afford an individual human tutor for everyone, but maybe we can afford to provide every student a smart phone or computer.” When everyone has access to the internet, they have access to free education. And what could be possible in a world full of educated people all over the planet?

Writer: Mallory Smith worked as Program Manager & Administrator at

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Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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