Einztein: Making Learning Free
GOOD: Prior to starting Einztein, what did you do?
Marco Masoni: While studying law, I taught in a public school in Washington, D.C., and later at a private school in LA. I taught in schools that were under-resourced and schools that were over-resourced, both at a stage when the internet was just beginning to take shape. A few years ago, after working in entertainment finance, I decided to make the permanent switch to education.
G: Why education?
MM: A couple years ago I convinced my nieces to relocate to Los Angeles from other parts of the world, thinking that California had a wonderful public education system that involved going to a good community college, and after two years transferring to one of the four-year state schools. It was a pretty good bargain for the money. Subsequently, the budget crisis has implemented cutbacks, which in the abstract might not seem like such a big deal until you have someone you love looking to transfer and being turned away from four-year schools due to reduced enrollment numbers. It got me thinking that if $40,000 a year isn’t viable and the paths are closed off to cheaper alternatives, what’s a student who wants to get a higher education supposed to do? I decided to focus on new models for education.
G: What is Einztein exactly?
MM: It's intended to serve as a sort of cloud campus, which allows people with the desire to learn to access free courses and connect with one another as they carry out their academic pursuits. It's intended to serve as a platform to enable the exploration and experimentation of new models of education. And while we're not trying to create a model that will work for everyone, I predict that we will soon get to the point where there will be ways for willing students to obtain online degrees at low or no-cost.
G: When did it launch?
MM: The site launched in March and we're still developing some important elements, including our social knowledge networking tool, which is aimed at enriching the experience of studying online.
G: What's your favorite course?
MM: Making Civics Real. The years I spent teaching and my interest in civics come together in that course, which is basically a professional development workshop for teachers of civics.
G: How do courses appear on your site?
MM: First, we review courses for quality purposes. And you'll find everything from as little as eight semester hours all the way up to 100 semester hours. The average is around 15 to 20 hours. It's entirely self-paced and 100 percent free. We do our best to screen out courses that have hidden costs. And we won't include a course that requires you to sign up.
G: Can you get credit?
MM: No, not yet. You can use the knowledge and skills that you gain from the course to help in a job, prepare for college, or supplement your coursework. That’s where Einztein is serving as a platform, and as it evolves, we're looking at ways that a student’s work can be recognized.
G: What do you see as the future of degrees from accredited institutions?
MM: At some point in the near future, I think, it's going to be less important whether a student got credit for a course through a university or through a reputable provider that may or may not be accredited. And while degrees from accredited post-secondary institutions are meaningful, it won’t be the only avenue available to students looking to get a leg up in the marketplace. Other avenues will open up.
G: Where do you see this whole movement headed?
MM: I think that the state of online course design is still incredibly primitive. We're just beginning to understand how to shape a course so that it is compelling and truly educational as opposed to being repurposed content that gets thrown up on the web so schools can generate money or market themselves. But we are still at a very early stage in terms of what the internet has to offer students who are coming at learning from a different place, whether that's because their first language is something other than, say, English, or because they have some other challenge to overcome. We've been pretty dumb about course design up until now. The internet has served our purposes for shopping, communication, news, and entertainment. But it hasn’t been used as effectively as it can be in terms of actually advancing knowledge.
The Rise of Drone Pizza Delivery Why the skies will soon be filled with flying, snack-bearing robots
How Helsinki Became a Public Transporation Paradise One European city plans to make car ownership obsolete within a decade.
Follow the Crowd NanoCrafter and the rise of group intelligence Why online gaming may just be the future of science
The Empathy Mirror Neurofeedback enables us to better see ourselves in the other. Recent discoveries in neurofeedback can teach you to be less of a dick.
Robots On Ice Probe the Arctic Why a team of research robots is investigating disappearing sea ice, and why you should care
Don’t Turn Away Colin Finlay photographs the consequences of climate change. You will never see more beautiful photos of the deteriorating state of our planet than the ones in this photo feature.
Puppy Love How dogecoin spawned an improbable community of giving What a canine-emblazoned cryptocurrency can teach about philanthropy
Positive In, Positive Out: How a USC Alumna is Coping with Lymphoma Coast Guard Reserves member Cassie Sulfridge, 28, had just graduated from MSW@USC, the Southern California university’s web-based Master of Social Work program, and was working two jobs when her life was turned upside down.
Politics by Yummier Means An Israeli-Palestinian popup restaurant and the precarious art of gastric diplomacy Two chefs win over hearts, minds, and stomachs in Jerusalem.
Rag Time Seven seriously f’d up t-shirts that somehow made their way onto shelves Brazil’s “lookin’ to score” tee is, unfortunately, part of a recent tradition of aberrant apparel.
LeBron James Complicates Cleveland's Comeback Story Returning to Cleveland, LeBron James contends with a city’s past and conflicting views of its future
The Equalizers For these Brazilian footballing legends, competitive play wasn’t a diversion from societal ills, but a means to redress them. A secret history of the fight for social justice among Brazil’s greatest soccer stars of the past century