Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Marc Andreessen on the Future of Online Education: Multi-Million Dollar Designed Courses

During an interview with New York Magazine, venture capitalist and co-founder of Netscape,  Marc Andreessen discussed the future of online education:
Q. You could probably bring in the whole online-education movement. But for me, the question is, who does the best with online schooling? And it’s mostly ­autodidacts, people who are self-starters. They’ve found that people from low-income communities actually get the least out of it.

A.It’s way too early to judge, because we’re at the very beginning of the development of the technology. It’s like critiquing dos 1.0 and saying that this will never turn into the Windows PC. We’re still in the prototype experimental phase. We can’t use the old approach to teach the world. We can’t build that many campuses. We don’t have the space. We don’t have money. We don’t have the professors. If you can go to Harvard, go to Harvard. But that’s not the question. The question is for the 14-year-old in Indonesia staring at a life of either, like, subsistence farming or being able to get a Stanford-quality education and being able to go into a profession.

The one other thing that people are really underestimating is the impact of entertainment-industry economics applied to education. Right now, with MOOCS,11 the production values are pretty low: You’ll film the professor in the classroom. But let’s just project forward. In ten years, what if we had Math 101 online, and what if it was well regarded and you got fully accredited and certified? What if we knew that we were going to have a million students per semester? And what if we knew that they were going to be paying $100 per student, right? What if we knew that we’d have $100 million of revenue from that course per semester? What production budget would we be willing to field in order to have that course?

Q.You could hire James Cameron to do it.

A.You could literally hire James Cameron to make Math 101. Or how about, let’s study the wars of the Roman Empire by actually having a VR [virtual reality] experience walking around the battlefield, and then like flying above the battlefield. And actually the whole course is looking and saying, “Here’s all the maneuvering that took place.” Or how about re-creating original Shakespeare plays in the Globe Theatre?


  1. Wishful. Thinking. There's a pretty good "online eductation" technology: cheap, widely available, well-understood, and accessible to anyone with elementary school background. It is called "books".

    No army of James Camerons is going to make understanding calculus or general relativity easier. All they could do is to create a false impression of understanding. Which will fall apart as soon as the kid so educated encounters a real-world problem which needs to get solved.

    The way out of educational crisis is to get kids out of the artificial world of academia, and get them to learn how the real world works - by doing things in the real world.

    1. hmmm... yep.
      Consider this. Today: No access to internship(apprentice). Lousy school. Brain-dead parents / peer group.
      Enter Khan (or someone like him).
      Non-threatening. You CAN'T fail! Keep trying 'til you get it.
      That's GOTTA work better. A lot better.
      So, yes, the Cameron thing is bullshit. but the reality of online learning is REAL. Follow it up with no minimum wage apprenticeship and hey, maybe you've got a shot.

  2. Math... the movie.

    "I see numbers... they're everywhere."
    "What we have here is a failure to calculate."
    "You can't handle the trig!"
    "Round up the usual suspects."
    "I'm sorry Dave, but your numbers are irrational."

  3. It's not shocking that low-income people do the worst in any self-directed education. They lack the discipline necessary. That's why their crime rates are so high and why they continue to be low-income. There are exceptions but generally for blacks and hispanics this holds.