Where Will They All Work?

“Consider Stanford’s experience: Last fall, 160,000 students in 190 countries enrolled in an Artificial Intelligence course taught by Mr. Thrun and Peter Norvig, a Google colleague. An additional 200 registered for the course on campus, but a few weeks into the semester, attendance at Stanford dwindled to about 30, as those who had the option of seeing their professors in person decided they preferred the online videos, with their simple views of a hand holding a pen, working through the problems.

Besides the Artificial Intelligence course, Stanford offered two other MOOCs last semester — Machine Learning (104,000 registered, and 13,000 completed the course), and Introduction to Databases (92,000 registered, 7,000 completed). And this spring, the university will have 13 courses open to the world, including Anatomy, Cryptography, Game Theory and Natural Language Processing.”

Tamar Lewin, Instruction for Masses Knocks Down Campus Walls, New York Times, March 4, 2012.


Stanford is only the tip of a global iceberg of educational capacity growth that is beginning to dump huge numbers of well educated workers into the world economy.

A big question for state university systems:  If you are the son or daughter of a middle class family in China or India or Kenya or Peru, why settle for an online education at State U. when universities of the caliber of Stanford, MIT, and Harvard offer unlimited enrollment opportunities?

For more on this issue, see my previous post:

Too Many Well Educated Workers: a Global Problem and a U.S. Policy Dilemma, February 29, 2012