Feb 12

(business + data) = science

Google's driverless carAgile enthousiasts are specialists of the development cycle: make it work, make it right, make it fast. This is not standard knowledge or even implemented in the higher educational system in western Europe. Agile was adopted by Sebastian Thrun when he saw Salman Khan ‘s intro at TED. Together with some collegues Thrun is building a platform for free technology courses called udacity.com . What happened? Inspired by Khan, Sebastian Thrun, a former tenured professor in Artificial Intelligence at Stanford, came aware of the individual engagement performance of on-line video (lecture-)quizing. With the free on-line artificial intelligence (AI-class) Sebastion Thrun reached a 160.000 students in one on-line class. He presented his findings at DLD. Februari 20th udacity.com enrolls its next classes: building a search engine and programming a robotic car.

The quest for heuristics
Udacity provide these classes free of charge and uses a freemium business model. From a simple web search, one of Thrun’s colleagues at udacity.com David Evans answered an ABC-journalist questioning: who pay’s the bill? ‘We obtain a lot of data from these classes, so this will be interesting for some parties in the market’. This underwrites my personal statement: ‘business + data = science’! During the DLD presentation Sebastian Thrun just told a few things about following students in their progress. Mentioning  findings like: why is it that on-line, 8% of the students perform a ‘first-time-right’ answers. While in the classroom at Stanford this is only 4%. The answer was simple, questioning classroom students who switched to the on-line version, answered they felt more engaged. From this information and performance indicators, we can derive that udacity.com, uses  an on-line tracking and performance system and tracks the individual students and their learning performance and behavior on-line. From this data udacity.com obtains new information,  in the quest for new heuristics. This is the job of Sebastian Thrun. He is both researcher looking for heuristics and an approachable tutor. This provides me the confirmation of another insight: a professional, a team, a start-up or a company do need 2 performance area’s.

Freemium business model
From a broader perspective, these findings make it reasonable to asume, udacity.com originated from or part of KnowLabs is probably financed by Google. Explicitly, the data from these classes, about students performance, can be used to track the best students in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science or Business in the world. So if udacity.com is financed by Google or Google is a paying customer, Google creates a competitive advantage either using or providing large scale high tech education for free, in the search of excellent talent. How would this be drawn or visualized as another excellent example of a multi-sided platform explained in Alexander Osterwalder’s work of Business Model Generation.

Technical versus soft skills on-line?
The big question is what kind of heuristics, other than performance tracking, can be derived from this educational data? I don’t know yet, but a simple conclusion can be taken. They make it work! The next question is: where are we at, at this point in the dutch-valley??
From this point on, I continue to bring the knowledge part of the ‘lean games to innovate’ available on-line. Knowledge and rational problem solving can be provided and learned  on-line. Development of soft skills and competencies for smart collaboration, playing the games to innovate, cannot. I think the essentials of combinatoric innovation remains. To make ‘the lean games to innovate’ work, social space is crucial to make personal and team engagement effective. Next time I will share my findings on process design and constrains to make team work effective.

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