Classes that reach anyone, anywhere

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Classes that reach anyone, anywhere


A friend of mine used to work as a senior researcher at Google’s headquarters in California. Last year, he quit the coveted job and returned to Korea to start up a new company. The reason for his resignation from the “divine company” was rather ironic: “I loved Google so much, and I thought if I had worked there any longer I wouldn’t have been able to leave at all. I wanted to establish a company as great as Google.”

On Friday, another Google employee left the company, and in a farewell e-mail to his colleagues he also admitted it was a very difficult decision. This time it was Craig Silverstein, the director of technology. He was the first employee hired by the founders, Larry Paige and Sergey Brin. In 1998, the Stanford Ph.D. candidate joined the fledgling company just recently set up in a garage. Some 14 years later, he had become a prominent search technology specialist, a mentor to the engineers and a symbol of the unique Google culture. Silverstein was the epitome of the slogan “Don’t be evil.” In the e-mail, he clarified that he wanted to pursue the core mission of Google to make the world a better place in another way. He plans to join the Khan Academy.

The Khan Academy is an online nonprofit education service provider founded by Salman Khan, a Bangladeshi-American educator. Khan, who studied mathematics, computer science and management at MIT and Harvard, used to be a hedge fund analyst. In 2004, he had uploaded a simple mathematics tutorial for his cousin, and it was viewed by an unexpectedly large crowd. An underprivileged kid sent thanks as he scored full marks on the SAT. Khan abandoned his life as a hedge fund analyst and transformed himself into a full-time nonprofit educator. The Khan Academy offers over 2,500 online tutoring videos free of charge, and over one million people around the world have accessed the material.

In January, Sebastian Thrun made headlines as he has given up his tenure at Stanford to start a series of free online higher education courses. Last year, he was shocked to find out that over 160,000 people from all over the world had signed up for his introductory artificial intelligence class. “It’s like a drug,” he said, adding that there were students from war-torn Afghanistan who completed the course online. They share the same goal: They want to open up a new era in which anyone and everyone can be better educated, thanks to the Internet.

by Lee Na-ree

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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