Sebastian Burkhard Thrun

is a Google VP and Fellow, and a part-time Research Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University

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sebastianthrun423 karma

There is no single recipe here. The thing that worked best for me is to be relentlessly driven by the desire to solve problems I really care about, and to be open to changing my mind along the way when I learn new things. A lot of successful entrepreneurs do this. They pick a vision of something that's important, and work as hard as they can to make it happen. It can be done inside companies. They all try to solve important problems. Act as if you already know that you won't fail. What would you do if you knew that you wouldn't fail? (credit to Regina Dugan for this question). And have a healthy disregard for rules. There are way too many rules, and they usually have only one effect: to slow down those how are active. If you believe your activities are in the best interest of the company that employs you - yet you fear you have broken enough rules that you might be fired - then you are doing well.

Now - on to education. We are trying to design Udacity around the idea of student empowerment. Rather than lecturing to you how to solve problems, we let you, the student, solve problems. I am a strong believer in learning by doing. I believe you can't lose weight by watching someone else exercise. It's really hard to learn by watching someone else solve problems (and lecture about it).

I wouldn't really worry about "gaps" in the education. Even if your education is gap-less right now, it'll have tons of gaps 5 years from now. Worry about skills. Worry about that you feel empowered to solve hard problems.

Mentorship: There is a on of mentoring going on at Udacity, although I agree, we have a long way to go. This is one of the holy grails in online education. Can we educate at scale, yet still empower all students? Is 1:1 mentorship by an instructor really required, or can peers mentor each other with the appropriate guidance? We hope to explore this going forward.

sebastianthrun298 karma

I really want both entities to succeed. I really like Coursera a lot, and the founders are amazing individuals. Both companies are trying to being high quality education to everyone. We need more entities doing the same.

A lot has been written about the commonalities and differences between Udacity and Coursera. You cal easily Google people's opinions. At Udacity, we are trying to change the pedagogical approach. we don't just aspire to bring the existing classroom experience (lectures, assignments, exams) to the online world. You find that Udacity classes are focused around student exercise, not lectures. Videos are minimal, often less than 90 seconds long (although some are longer). At Udacity, you will spend more time thinking on your own than listening to a professor. I feel the online medium is so amazing, we should really go beyond the replication of the classroom experience.

sebastianthrun208 karma

Ever since time, and certainly through the Industrial Revolution, have seen a restructuring of the workforce. Over 90% of all people used to work in agriculture and now it's about 2% in this country (number may be inaccurate). Are we better off or worse off? I think better off.

This is just my personal opinion. I believe society is wasting huge resources with "inefficiencies," and when we invent methods to overcome these inefficiencies, society tends to be better off. I think we have to be socially responsible to the people who might be negatively affected by all this, but just retaining things as they are cannot be our guiding principle going forward.

Just my 2c

sebastianthrun164 karma

Would love it. I hear form the Department Education that they are pouring $2B into the development of open source educational materials. They have an amazing vision. Anything "open access" is great.

BTW, I wonder what happens to the idea of a text book in the video age. One of the things that frustrates me about books is that they "don't talk back". I can do the exercises, but the book won't tell me what I am doing wrong. I really want to see innovation on that end as well.

sebastianthrun148 karma

Do it often. Coding is a skill like riding a bike. If you have a choice between coding and reading a book about coding, do coding first, then read the book when you get stuck. Don't read the book first.

Of course.... I highly recommend CS101 at Udacity and the subsequent classes. All of them focus on making you learn coding by doing it yourself.

sebastianthrun144 karma

Regina Dugan gave an amazing talk at TED, and everyone should watch it. "What would you do if failure is not an option?". Think about it. Say you know you will succeed. What would you do? It's really inspiring to me.

sebastianthrun131 karma

I want to thank everyone who participated in this IAmA. It was a ton of fun. I love hearing from fellow Udacians. Let's do it soon again. And yes, please vote this post all the way up to the top, so people can see it. Thanks. See you in class!!!!!!!

sebastianthrun121 karma

No! Absolutely not. Cinema hasn't replaced stage play either. What online will do is to reach many more students, those who can't afford being in classrooms. And it'll augment classroom teaching to enable teachers to focus more on the tutoring aspects of learning, and meaningful small group interaction - over giving lectures.

sebastianthrun119 karma

I'd like to throw this back to the people on this forum. What classes do YOU want to see on Udacity? Please reply!

sebastianthrun118 karma

Wow - I love this thread. Thanks for the many suggestions - and keep them coming. You just wrote the roadmap for Udacity!