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John Savageau

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Stanford’s eCorner: Leveling the Intellectual Playing Field

Extending high quality education and eLearning around the world

What? Leveling the intellectual playing field with Stanford? The home of elite, wealthy and over-privileged?

While eLearning is nothing new to the Internet generation, traditionally eLearning content was dull, "uninspirational," and in many cases an ineffective alternative to residence or classroom learning. Commercialized or neutralized to make lessons suitable for the masses, or in a worst case part of an uninspired project by religious or international organizations with motives more focused internally than for the benefit of their own organization – rather than the ultimate users of their product.

So we compare access to intellectual stimulation and development a student may have in residence at Stanford, UC Berkeley, or MIT to a kid growing up in Ramallah (Palestine), and the playing field appears far from level. Stanford will continue to pump out global business leaders, and the kid in Ramallah will learn to survive.

Good news for the kid in Ramallah – the Internet now extends to their home. Whether at an Internet café or kiosk in the city center, a library, at home through a wireless connection, or if their school is one of the lucky institutions with Internet access, the student now has the global network tether extended to their eyes and minds.

How the Playing Field is Extended
Being one of those lucky people with the means to enjoy MP3 players and easy access to the Internet, occasionally I unexpectedly stumble upon a "gold mine" of valuable resources. Accessing Zune's library of free podcasts is a great way to not only harvest great music, but is also a gateway to podcasts related to the arts, business, education, entertainment – you name it, there is a podcast for it.

Having recently left the corporate world to jump into the entrepreneurial world, I did a search on "entrepreneur" in the Zune podcast directory, and was shocked to see a response of about 100 business entrepreneur, startup, advice, and news streams pinging on the keyword.

Stanford had a series listed as "The Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture Series." OK, cool. Let's give it a shot and I can listen while on the treadmill.

What a shock. Suddenly I am inside an auditorium at Stanford University, listening to guest lecturers speaking to a class at the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. The lecturers included Steve Ballmer, Craig Barrett, Greg Papadopoulus, Sheryl Sandberg, Jensen Huang – all people we read about in the papers as the thought leaders and business visionaries leading the technical world. These lecturers were giving their most secret strategies on how to build businesses, where the economy is going, what is important, and genuinely inspiring the students.

Just a few years ago, these lectures would only be available to the elite. The ideas, visions, strategies – all the most powerful thoughts of our intellectual leadership in an informal venue, with an extended question and answer period with students poised to start the next generation of technologies and dreams to lead the business world.

Now, with the Internet, and the benevolence of Stanford University's leadership, this level of access to the highest levels of education is available to the kid in Ramallah with an Internet connection. Now that kid in Ramallah can be inspired by global thought leadership, enlightened at a level now exposed though the veil of a domain restricted to the elite.

The intellectual playing field is now being leveled.

Not Just Stanford

While Stanford's program is the first which triggered my middle-aged head to explore this new ocean of resource, many other universities are delivering extremely high quality video and audio casts of their lectures and classrooms through similar venues. Stanford offers online lectures on topics such as the "Introduction to Linear Dynamical Systems, " UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and many others offer lectures on everything from the sciences, to dozens of foreign languages, to Business 101.

All free to anyone with an Internet connection. All available to kids and adults in Ramallah, Ulaanbaatar, or South Bend, Indiana.

No sooner do I get over the hangover from looking at podcasts available through the Zune directory when I stumble on AcademicEarth .Org,

Academic Earth's objective states "We are building a user-friendly educational ecosystem that will give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world's leading scholars.  Our goal is to bring the best content together in one place and create an environment in which that content is remarkably easy to use and where user contributions make existing content increasingly valuable."

  • Participating Universities include:
  • UC Berkeley
  • Harvard
  • MIT
  • Princeton
  • Stanford
  • UCLA
  • Yale

With subjects covering all areas of a typical university curriculum, our subject in Ramallah now has access to as many lectures as time will allow – the same lectures students attend at the best universities in the world. While no video will replace the face-to-face experience of classroom interaction, contributions universities such as Stanford and participants in the AcademicEarth.Org provide a global resource that is unprecedented in quality and depth.

And leveling the global intellectual playing field

More Stories By John Savageau

John Savageau is a life long telecom and Internet geek, with a deep interest in the environment and all things green. Whether drilling into the technology of human communications, cloud computing, or describing a blue whale off Catalina Island, Savageau will try to present complex ideas in terms that are easily appreciated and understood.

Savageau is currently focusing efforts on data center consolidation strategies, enterprise architectures, and cloud computing migration planning in developing countries, including Azerbaijan, The Philippines, Palestine, Indonesia, Moldova, Egypt, and Vietnam.

John Savageau is President of Pacific-Tier Communications dividing time between Honolulu and Burbank, California.

A former career US Air Force officer, Savageau graduated with a Master of Science degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas and also received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Asian Studies and Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland.

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