Stanford University’s president predicts the death of the lecture hall as university education moves online

May 31, 2012 | Source: IEEE Spectrum

A Stanford University course on iTunes U (credit: G. Prisco)

Stanford University recently explored offering online courses to a larger audience with a programming class for iPhone applications, first available in 2009, that has been downloaded more than one million times.

This past fall, more than 100 000 students around the world took three engineering classes — Machine Learning, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and Introduction to Databases.

Stanford president John L. Hennessy says that’s just the beginning. In fact, in his vision of the future, the lecture hall will play a much smaller role.

“I’m a believer in online technology in education,” he said. “I think we have learned enough about this to understand that it will be transformative. It’s going to change the world, and it’s going to change the way we think about education. … It’s going to filter down into high school, too, where we have an even more dramatic problem, considering the shortage of highly qualified high school teachers, particularly in science and math.”

Instead of lectures, “this generation is completely comfortable watching a video online; for them, it’s not markedly different than having a person up at the front of the classroom. They are happy using technology. They know how to hit the pause button; they know how to speed it up a little bit, to watch it 20 percent faster and make the process more efficient.”