Daphne Koller – Social Entrepreneurship and Education

There are close to 629 public universities in the United States. Some top ranking universities offer great programs to its students. Its faculty members are often considered experts and policymakers in the field. However, the enrollment and admission to these programs is difficult. Top Ivy League universities such as Yale and MIT restrict their enrollment to 1300 or 1700 students per year. Many educators argue against the restriction of knowledge and learning to a limited group of individuals. Several working professionals also wish to improve their skills to promote their career. Daphne Koller, a Stanford Rajeev Motwani computer science professor, decided to change the scenario, and make learning accessible to everyone who wishes for it.

Daphne Koller received her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1987. She completed her Ph.D. in computer sciences at Stanford University and postdoctoral research from University of California, Berkley. She joined the Department of Computer Sciences at Stanford University in 1995. Since then, Koller has worked on several research projects, especially in the field of Artificial Intelligence, and its role in biomedical sciences. Other awards and achievements include:

  • Mac Arthur Fellowship in 2004.
  • $150,000 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in Computer Sciences
  • She authored a text book on Probabilistic Graphical Model
  • Bayesian Machine Learning technology was named by the MIT Technology Review as one of the “10 Technologies that will Change Your World.”
  • Founded the CURIS program, a Stanford University summer internship program.
  • Awarded Sloan Foundation Faculty Fellowship

Koller is also the co-founder of Coursera, an online platform that partners with top universities and faculty members in the world, and gives them an opportunity to offer online courses to everyone across the world for free.

Coursera currently offers courses from Princeton University; Stanford University; University of California, Berkley; University of Michigan, Ann-Arbor; and University of Pennsylvania. Courses range from History of World and Algorithms to Statistics and Vaccines. The classes have been highly popular. In fact, more than 44,000 students enrolled in Koller’s first Probabilistic Graphical Models class. This number is many times the total number of students she has taught at Stanford University. More than 250,000 students from 172 countries enrolled in the first three computer classes or Coursera. These include teenagers, retirees, and everyone in between.

The Coursera Software was developed by the undergraduate and postgraduate students at Stanford University under the supervision of Koller and her colleague Andrew Ng. The website includes 10 to 15 minute video lecture, video quizzes and auto-grading software for immediate results, and a question-answer community that allows students to interact with their peers. The Startup recently received a funding of 16 million dollars from investors to improve its software and the type and range of courses it offers. Coursera’s reach and impact has been acknowledged by several national and international media outlets including the New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, NPR and Reuters. It is giving a second chance to millions of students across the globe that have passion for certain subjects but did not get an opportunity to learn them from top-class educators of the world.