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  本文摘要:It is less than a quarter of an hour’s drive down Route 101 from the village-like campus of Stanford University to Mountain View, the Silicon Valley home of Udacity.从庄园般的斯坦福大学(Standford University)校园抵达,沿着101号路,驾车回到Udacity所在的硅谷山景城(Mountain View),只必须将近一刻钟的时间。

It is less than a quarter of an hour’s drive down Route 101 from the village-like campus of Stanford University to Mountain View, the Silicon Valley home of Udacity.从庄园般的斯坦福大学(Standford University)校园抵达,沿着101号路,驾车回到Udacity所在的硅谷山景城(Mountain View),只必须将近一刻钟的时间。This was the journey Sebastian Thrun, the online education company’s chief executive and co-founder, made in 2012 when he cleared his desk at the computer science department to focus on a way of teaching business skills differently.这正是这家在线教育公司首席执行官兼任联合创始人塞巴斯蒂安礠饲(Sebastian Thrun)在2012年走到的路。当时,他清空了在计算机系的办公桌,将精力集中于一种全新的传授商业技能的方式。

His new life as a tech entrepreneur is about as different to his tenured faculty post as Udacity’s modern headquarters, in an office block next door to the sprawling car park of a Target hypermarket, is from the Spanish colonial architecture of Stanford.作为科技企业创业者的新生活,与他终生教职生活之间的区别,约和Udacity的现代化总部大楼与斯坦福大学西班牙殖民时代建筑之间的区别差不多。Udacity的总部在一个办公大楼内,旁边是一家塔吉特(Target)餐馆的极大停车场。While this new life among the tech industry’s elite may make some professors wince, the 48-year-old Mr Thrun, a German expat, looks every inch the Valley entrepreneur when we meet, with his shaved head, black T-shirt, jeans and flame red running shoes.这种在高科技产业精英中的新生活,可能会令其某些大学教授望而却步。


“The beauty of Silicon Valley is that people are literally fearless,” Mr Thrun says, after we settle into one of the glass walled meeting rooms, named after characters in the Doctor Who and Transformers franchises.我们在一间玻璃墙面的会议室坐定之后,特龙说道:“硅谷的动人之处在于,这里的人们确实是无所畏惧。”这里的会议室都是以《谜样博士》(Doctor Who)和《变形金刚》(Transformers)系列中的人物命名的。

The belief that the education market is ripe for “disruption”, as it is put in the Silicon Valley vernacular, has led to a mushrooming in ed tech start-ups seeking to create new platforms for teaching. Downloadable videos, known as Moocs (massive open online courses), for example, are now a tool for delivering learning to anyone with Internet access.用硅谷的风行语言来说,“政治宣传”教育市场的时机早已成熟期。在这种信念的影响下,一系列教育类科技创业型企业如雨后春笋般经常出现,企图创建新的教学平台。比如,被称作“大型网络公开课”(Massive Open Online Courses,全称“慕课”(Mooc))的可iTunes视频,如今已沦为向所有互联网用户获取自学机会的工具。

With Google X – a semi-secret facility dedicated to making technological advancements, including driverless cars and Internet-connected glasses -also on his CV, Mr Thrun is seen as the market’s most innovative thinker. He is credited with creating the first big Mooc hit, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, while he was still teaching at Stanford.曾在Google X工作的特龙,被视作这一市场中最不具创新能力的思想家。Google X是一个正处于半保密状态的部门,致力于积极开展还包括无人驾驶汽车和互联网眼镜在内的高科技研发。特龙因开办了首门轰动性慕课——《人工智能导论》(Introduction to Artificial Intelligence)——而受到赞誉,当时他还在斯坦福大学教书。

Udacity is one of the “big three” in the market, alongside neighbouring start-up Coursera and Boston-based EdX, which between them boast the largest collections of Moocs.Udacity是在线教育市场的“三巨头”之一。另外两大巨头分别是同为硅谷一家人的创业型企业Coursera,以及坐落于波士顿的EdX,这两家总共享有的慕课数量是最少的。

Although his presentations at the time were extremely low-tech, recorded on a digital camera in his living room, 160,000 people from 190 countries signed up to the course within days, including young men dodging attacks in Afghanistan.当时,他的课程用于的技术十分低级,是在他的起居室里用一台数码摄像机录音的。尽管如此,几天之内就有来自190个国家的16万人甄选参与了这一课程,其中还包括正在逃离攻击的阿富汗年轻人。The power of networks and sharing网络与共享的力量As Moocs evolved, however, it became apparent that as few as three per cent of students signing up to courses would complete them. So while others tried to copy Mr Thrun’s model, he was among the first to claim that Moocs were not actually the panacea to the market they had first appeared.不过,随着慕课的发展,人们找到,在甄选参与慕课的学生中,或许只有3%能已完成课程自学。

因此,虽然其他人也企图拷贝特龙的顺利模式,特龙却较早于明确提出,在线教育市场上年所经常出现的慕课,只不过并无法一劳永逸地解决问题这个市场的所有问题。Instead, he created a model at Udacity based on supplying credentials, called nanodegrees, that cost a fraction of the cost of traditional programmes and are endorsed by employers.于是,他在Udacity创办了一种新模式,获取被称作微学位(nanodegree)的证书。这种证书所须要成本只有传统教育项目成本的零头,并且获得雇员的接纳。

“We want to be the Uber of education,” Mr Thrun claims, following the start-up convention of comparing one’s business model to the current darling of the VC community.特龙声称:“我们想要沦为教育界的优步(Uber)。”这番言论沿用了创业型企业将自己的商业模式与风投圈现在的宠儿互为相提并论的习惯。There is some justification for this metaphor given that both Udacity and Uber use a network of freelancers paid per piece of work they perform. In the case of Uber, this means taxi drivers, while Udacity uses the marking skills of academic staff, cross checking nanodegree students’ work through a process of peer review.这一比喻有一定道理,原因是Udacity和优步都用于了由自由职业者构成的网络,按照他们已完成的每份工作缴纳报酬。

优步用于的是指出租车司机构成的网络,而Udacity用于的则是学术人员的评分技能,通过一种同行评议的过程,构建对微学位学员自学成果的交叉检查。The list of academics on Udacity’s books is now in triple figures, many of whom are retired computer science professors. “We have a guy in South Africa who makes $11,000 a month,” says Mr Thrun.如今,Udacity账本上的学者名单有三位数之多,其中许多都是计算机科学领域的卸任教授。特龙回应:“我们有一位老师在南非,每个月赚到1.1万美元。

”The selling points of such “sharing economy” models are not just that they provide work to professionals and enable companies to expand operations relatively easily, but that they create a network effect where the service gets better the more people get involved.这种“共享经济”模式的卖点,某种程度是向专业人士获取了工作,令其企业需要比较更容易地不断扩大业务,还在于它产生了一种网络效应——参予的人越少,服务就越好。Mr Thrun’s premise is that the way people learn and the way companies are prepared to fund this has changed so dramatically that old models of teaching need to be replaced with more flexible techniques.特龙的假设是,人们自学的方式和企业打算为这一过程获取资金的方式已再次发生了很大转变,原有的教学模式必需由更为灵活性的技术替换。Flexibility is key to competition灵活性是竞争力的关键The first of Udacity’s online courses, in web development and data analytics, was launched in September 2014 through a partnership with US telecoms provider ATT. To date, some 5,000 people have enrolled on it with ATT offering 100 paid internships to those completing the course. Some 20 other tech companies have since become Udacity partners, including Google, Salesforce and Cloudera.Udacity第一门在线课程是有关网络研发和数据分析的,该课程于2014年9月与美国电信服务提供商ATT合作发售。截至今天,有数大约5000人登记了这一课程,ATT面向已完成这一课程的人获取100个休假进修岗位。

自那以来,还包括谷歌(Google)、Salesforce、和Cloudera在内,有数另外大约20家高科技企业沦为Udacity的合作伙伴。“We get 90 per cent finishing rates on courses,” Mr Thrun boasts. However, he cannot afford to rest on his laurels as competition in the market is heating up (see sidebar). There is also a need to keep Udacity’s business model flexible, given that online teaching is still an evolving market, where the one certainty is that no one has yet gained a clear lead.特龙自豪地说道:“我们的课程完成率超过了90%。

”不过,在线教育市场竞争日益白热化,他也不肯躺在过往的成绩上睡大觉。此外,他还必需维持Udacity商业模式的灵活性,原因是在线教育是个仍在发展变化的市场,关于这个市场唯一确认的一点是还没有人显著领先。Rewards for educational innovation教育创意的报酬Mr Thrun knows what he doesn’t want for his company; professors in tenure, which he claims limits the ability to react to market demands. “Android has over a billion users now, but you would be hard pressed to hear of a single college that provides courses in Android.”特龙告诉他不期望他的企业有什么,那就是享有终生教职的教授。


但是,你很难听见任何一所大学获取有关Android的课程。”He is clearly keen to stimulate more blue sky thinking about solving the education challenge he has set himself.很显著,对于如何解决问题他自己明确提出的教育领域的挑战,他意图唤起出有一些更为天马行空的点子。

“What I have done instead is hire some very young people. Almost 50 per cent female. Average age is 28.“我所做到的是聘请一些十分年长的人。其中将近一半是女性,平均年龄是28岁。“I want people with fresh ideas. People with a passion for it. What I do is just unleash their potential.”“我想的是享有新鲜观点的人,是回应充满热情的人。

我所做到的只是释放出来他们的创造力。”Being in Silicon Valley’s heartlands, where working on a start-up is the norm, is vital for this reason, explains Mr Thrun. He claims it would be harder to develop such a business in another part of the world and certainly not in an existing academic institution. “People in education are risk averse,” he says. “They want to build Steinways. I like to think of us having the impact Ikea has.”特龙说明说道,出于这个原因,把公司设于硅谷心脏地带至关重要,因为在这里为创业型企业工作是种常态。


我则讨厌把我们视作与宜家(Ikea)有某种程度影响的企业。”One of Mr Thrun’s ideas to stimulate creative thinking in Udacity has been to reward suggestions with bottles of wine. In less than a month, he has given more than 12 away. “I want to make it almost mandatory what people can do without fear,” he says.在Udacity,特龙鼓舞创造性思维的一个办法是,托建议就奖葡萄酒。在将近一个月的时间内,他已派发了好比12瓶葡萄酒。

他说道:“我想把人们舍弃不安后可以做的事情变为他们必需做的事情。”Edtech competitors find partners to scale up教育科技业竞争者借合作伙伴不断扩大规模Down the road from Udacity, Coursera has been building partnerships with commercial organisations and the world’s top universities, including Stanford (photo of campus on left), to offer free courses online for the masses.在Udacity旁边不远处,Coursera早已和多家商业机构以及斯坦福等全球顶尖大学创建了合作关系,向公众获取免费的在线课程。NovoEd, also created by former Stanford professors, is building similar partnerships for online learning.某种程度由曾多次的斯坦福大学教授创立的NovoEd,正在为在线自学创建类似于的合作关系。These companies have considerable war chests to fund the competitive battle. Coursera has raised more than $85m for its effort, an increase on the $55m Udacity has raised since its launch three years ago.这些企业都坐拥大量资金,可供他们积极开展白热化的竞争。

Coursera已筹措逾8500万美元用作竞争,多达了Udacity自三年前正式成立以来筹措的5500万美元。In his defence, Udacity co-founder and chief executive Sebastian Thrun says: “Taking on all of education is like boiling the ocean...My ambition is to make the experience of working at Udacity the best experience of people’s lives. But letting go of people [is] a liberation. I make them a task to find a new job. Many times I find people say thank you for firing me...It doesn’t always work but I think it works most of the time.这位Udacity的联合创始人兼任首席执行官这样为自己申辩:“意图夺下全部教育市场无异于想烧开整个海洋……我的志向是,令其在Udacity的工作经历,沦为人们生命中的最佳体验。不过,让人们离开了是对他们的一种和平。我让他们把寻找新的工作当作一项任务。

我曾经遇上人们对我说道,谢谢您辞退我……这种方式并不总是有效地,但我指出多数情况下是奏效的。”“I have an ego but I don’t [say] I know everything. A lot of the decisions I have made were bad decisions,” he adds. “People in the Valley are both arrogant and extremely humble.”他还说道:“我较为热情,不过我会(说道)我什么都告诉。我所做到的决策许多都很差劲。硅谷人既轻视,同时又极为顺服。



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