What future engineering classes will look like

The TED (for technology, education, and design) conference has a reputation for hosting presentations about ground-breaking technologies and ideas. It is attended by luminaries that include Bill Gates, Al Gore, and notable scientists such as Jane Goodall. If you are interested in attending, we understand the conference fee is a mere $6,000, or you can sit through a live webcast for just $500.

Anyway, this year's TED conference included a presentation by educator Salman Khan, who started an online university reportedly from the closet of his bedroom. Invited to speak at TED by Bill Gates, Khan has produced about 2,100 short educational videos which you can watch free online. Topics include algebra, trig, geometry, calculus, physics, probability, statistics, and several other subjects.

More to the point, at TED Khan described his vision for the educational experience of the future: Professors would assign lecture videos as homework. Class time would then go toward personal coaching by professors on student projects.

Reports are that Khan's talk got the biggest standing ovation of the day at TED, with Gates giving this parting comment: “I think you just got a glimpse of the future of education.”

I don't know whether this is the future or not, but it sounds a lot more interesting than some of the engineering lectures I had to sit through back in the dark ages when I was in school. Engineering educators might have something with this approach, as long as they can keep students off Facebook long enough to concentrate on listening to the video lectures.

If you want to check out Khan's courses for yourself, here is the list: http://www.khanacademy.org/

And here is the page for the TED conference: http://www.ted.com/pages/about

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