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Government should sponsor this kind of thing, seems like there are a lot of people out there that want to learn more and these kind of quality courses should scale fairly well. Sure it won't replace the real course but it will teach a lot of people a lot of things.

Really the only thing holding this kind of thing back from dramatically improving education efficiency is the old thinking rigid degree requirements.

I have often marvelled at the wastefulness and inefficiencies of the current teaching system. If you have an exceptionally good teacher they should be teaching millions, not a year-group of 100. If online learning took off I think it has the potential to dramatically improve education for people everywhere in the world, for a fraction of the current costs.

Having said that, there are numerous issues which would have to be sorted out. Academic education is (I believe) extremely scalable. Children's emotional, social and physical education is less so. The results of such an education are extremely dependent on the child's attitude and willingness to learn.

At the very least, online learning has the power to completely change adult learning in the near future, where we can assume the above issues do not apply.

Some variation of this happens in HK, where everybody wants to learn English (because they can't learn as well from their peers, unlike other subject) and English lecture/tutoring places pops up all over the place, and the top teachers teaches, via video conferencing, hundreds of pupils at once. I'm told the top teachers gets paid in the millions.

Why should the government be involved? Can't 60k folks pay two guys they want to learn from?

The appeal here is that the course is free, ergo, _anyone_ with a basic internet connection can take it.

If you require payments, you then have credit card companies and Paypal restricting who (i.e. which countries) gets access to it.

Income from donations isn't guaranteed, and thus provides a weak incentive for universities to provide these kinds of courses. I'd also wager that donations would fizzle out as this sort of thing became more commonplace.

US Government grants would provide guaranteed incentives for American universities to offer these kinds of courses, which would educate your populace and bolster the appeal of your higher education institutions to potential overseas students. The latter point would lead to many knock-on economic benefits (e.g. immigrant students deciding to stay in the US).

(oh, but rabble rabble gubment rabble bad rabble rabble because this is HN where libertarian capitalists roam free)

The top 10% of this class would be ideal candidates for Google/MSFT/etc.

Besides students or government paying, there are several other business models that could be considered, including employers sponsoring in exchange for exposure to the best students.

That said, governments already subsidize education in many countries. We should be demanding that the investment get us a better return!

> The top 10% of this class would be ideal candidates for Google/MSFT/etc

I really wonder if this is true. I've looked at the text and it seems pretty intro-level. What would the certificate of completion look like on a resume?

Wait you are saying the key advantage of US taxpayers funding this is people overseas in paypal blocked countries (Libya, North Korea...) get it for free?

You can get Teaching Company DVDs from a lot of libraries. Basically the same idea but lower tech, and government subsidized.

But then, I am a big believer that a great teacher on tape is far better for the students than a good or OK teacher in person.

Government subsidized? You mean the library? Because IIRC the courses retail at a fortune (but are always on sale.)

It's not really. The most useful thing a teacher can do is give feedback. That said, one student among 300 doesn't get a lot of feedback.

How about "great lecturer or speaker" over "great teacher"? Because a 300:1 lecture by an ok lecturer is much less useful (bordering on worthless) than a recorded one by a great lecturer. And that mediocre lecture is what you will get in most schools for intro classes.

... which are often the ones with 300 students, and no useful feedback. I agree.

"Government should sponsor this kind of thing"

Maybe 60% of the budget of Stanford is from research grants from the US Federal Government. For the students, there are also scholarships, e.g., from the NSF, NIH, etc., which is more "government" support.

Be not at all in doubt: Look at the Stanford campus with all its buildings, lawns, people, equipment, etc. and know that nearly all of it is paid for by the US Federal government.

Research for the US Military was/is an important source of funding. To be clear, it's not like the government is getting nothing in return.

Gifts from successful alums are also a big source now: http://facts.stanford.edu/finances.html

Yes, since the US military, yes, mostly via NSF and NIH, have been tossing Stanford ballpark $1 billion a year, it's nice to have some alums kick in a few million a year, maybe $10 million now and then?!!!

Yes, I can believe that the Stanford alums have especially good reason and ability to be 'grateful'! Good for Stanford; thank you, thank you, thank you Dean Terman!

Still, nearly all the world's top research universities are in the US, and the main reason is that right after WWII Ike and others concluded that research in math, physical science, and engineering were just crucial for US national security. Congress has gone along. Any significant claim that the US is falling behind in research will open Congress's funding for the usual suspects NSF, NIH, DoE, DARPA, etc.

Net, no way, not a chance, will Congress permit US research universities to fall behind: From Congress all it takes is money, that is easy for Congress to vote, and actually in the big picture it doesn't take very much money.

Also, all things considered, the money is relatively well spent. Evidence: Getting those grants is DARNED competitive. Want to get promoted at a top US research university? Get a grant!

And there is a secret -- hush, hush! About 60% of the grant money, for math, physical science, and engineering, goes to 'overhead' which ends up good for the English, modern dance, French literature, and art history departments! Likely helps pay for the university theater, art gallery, string quartet concert series, etc.!

Don't tell anyone that Federal taxes are supporting string quartets!

Also looked to me that the Stanford lawn was in nice shape!

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