Richard A. DeMillo – Free Knowledge for Everyone

Richard A. DeMillo has worn many hats during his illustrious career. After completing his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, he went on to complete his Ph.D. in Information and Computer Science from Georgia Tech. He worked at:

  • University of Wisconsin for a short while, before returning to Georgia Tech in 1976 as associate professor. He published several papers and articles in noted scientific journals and publications. He also collaborated with Lawrence Landweber to create Theorynet, a technology that was later used to develop the internet.
  • Director of the Software Test and Evaluation Project for the U.S. Department of Defense between 1981 and 1987.
  • Faculty member at Purdue University.
  • Bellcore, a technology company as the vice-president, and played a key role in their e-commerce and communication software development.
  • Hewlett-Packard in 2000 as their Chief Technology Officer, and remained there until he returned back to Georgia tech as the Dean of College of Computing.
  • Currently, he serves as the Director of Center of 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech.

DeMillo has transformed the field of computer education forever. He also led Georgia Tech’s commercialization efforts by creating venture funded companies such as Damballa Systems and Pranama.

DeMillo is also an educator with strong principles and beliefs. He understands that a few top-ranking universities in the country and their alumni cannot control all the learning and knowledge of the world. Free, open source education is going to revolutionize the future, where professors from top universities will offer their classes online for free. He is working hard to make Georgia Tech’s computer science classes accessible to everyone via internet. He believes that such free, online classes will help students learn from the best faculty members across the globe and create their own first-rate college education.

While some research studies have indicated the benefits of online education including the fact that they are as effective as traditional classroom classes, DeMillo and other experts like him believe that online, open source education has a long way to go. Test methods are often primitive. Faculty members should also find ways to award a certificate of completion at the end of the program. This will motivate more students to take up such endeavors. Employers will also realize the benefit of these courses, and everyone as society will start looking beyond credential-based college education to actual knowledge and learning of the subject.

DeMillo believes that the current trend of free online education will challenge colleges and universities to develop better channels of communication with their students. It will also allow faculty members from smaller colleges to access different global perspectives and create a well-rounded curriculum for their students. DeMillo says that the new trends in open source education will also threaten the existence of online universities that charge thousands of dollars to give a low quality degree or credential.

Funding for such projects is often important. However, DeMillo says that the business model of free, online education will have enough resources, and money should never be a big problem.