Zack G – August 25, 2013

It’s not really news that the Internet has had a profound impact on the way we deal with information. Educational facilities have been working for decades on ways to integrate this relatively new technology into the classroom. Perhaps, though, the answer lies beyond the classroom. Here are some of the people making a splash in the world of online learning:

#1 Jan Philipp Schmidt

Right now, Schmodt is working in Cape Town, South Africa, at the University of the Western Cape. There he is overseeing the Open Courseware Project, an ongoing pursuit to lift the barriers to education by creating free access to open courses online. One major success Schmidt has seen is the popular Peer 2 Peer University, where anyone can enroll in online classes on virtually any subject. The classroom atmosphere is replicated by the social media platform upon which the courses operate.

#2 Walter Lewin

Walter Lewin is a Professor Emeritus of Physics at MIT, and his wildly popular lectures were sought after to the point that Lewin began broadcasting them on the left coast via the University of Washington, Seattles’s UWTV in the 1990s. In the 1980s, Lewin used MIT’s local cable station as a place to share his lectures. Today, his riveting lessons are available on iTunes U, YouTube, and the OpenCourseWare Program at MIT.

#3 Salman Khan

Khan is the force behind Khan Academy, a hub for free online education that grew from Khan’s inspiring Ted Talk and his earlier, stunningly successful YouTube channel. Khan stumbled upon the potential of the Internet in enhancing education when he was tutoring his young cousin through her algebra homework, with the help of a notebook tablet, online. Bells went off and Khan began making his now-famous videos to assist anyone having trouble with math. Videos are available at no cost, and across disciplines.

#4 Charles Thornburgh

Civitas Learning is the most successful in a series of ventures launched by Thornburgh in his earlier career. The Stanford graduate unearthed his knack for helping students learn during his studies, as he filled his spare time with tutoring sessions, which he began converting his lessons into multimedia learning tools. Thornburgh has worked extensively with Kaplan University Online to develop online education platforms for elementary, middle, and high schools, in addition to higher education.

#5 Conrad and Stephen Wolfram

Two more TED celebs, the brothers Wolfram were heavy hitters in the tech-learning field for years before the world had a chance to hear what they had to say. These gentlemen have worked together on developing educational software like Wolfram Mathematica, and have fought to revamp the teaching model for math at every level.

#6 John L. Hennessy
Hennessy is currently the president of Stanford University and his CV boasts a long tenure in the Engineering and Computer Sciences program at the University. As one of the leading researchers in early computer engineering, Hennessy has applied his savvy and creativity to the marriage of technology and education. His open online courses have astounding enrollment numbers.

#7 Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian Thrun is a vice president at Google and a pioneer in the artificial intelligence and robotics field. He has taught computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford. His contributions to online learning include leading the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL), and creating free online class in the fields of science, math, technology, and engineering. Perhaps his greatest contribution to date has been the creation of Udacity, an open courseware education platform with every level of free courses in the aforementioned fields.

#8 Jose Ferreira

Worked extensively with Kaplan Inc. on ways to improve and streamline the online GRE. Ferreira went on to create Knewton, which mimics  Google in its ability to adapt to the user’s preferences and habits. Knewton has proven to be a valuable tool both in and out of the classroom.

#9 Clayton Christensen

Christiensen is the father of Disruptive Innovation and has been quite vocal that online classrooms have the potential to be the greatest model of that concept. Christensen has worked tirelessly toward the advancement of online learning, where students can have free, 24-hour access to educational tools, and is the co-founder of the Innosight Institute.

#10 Anant Agarwal

Agarwal is the president of edX,a hub of free courses from universities including UC Berkeley, Harvard, and MIT. The universities who contribute will have the opportunity to study the patterns of learning in the 21st century, thereby enabling developments and improvements in the model of education, on and off-line around the world.

#11 Daphne Koller

Koller is yet another educator whose years of work in computer intelligence finally pay off after a groundbreaking TED talk. Koller and her partner, Andrew Ng, founded the online education platform Coursera, which invites universities around the world to contribute in exchange for a richer understanding of technology’s role in learning today.


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