Amazon has broken a higher superstar.


Amazon has broken a higher superstar.

The main forces in advanced education technology and learning have quietly begun to work with a major corporate force – almost everything else.

Candace Thille, a pioneer in science and open education delivery, has taken a leave from Stanford university to amazon, a huge (and growing) retailer.

Thille’s title, amazon spokeswoman: the science and engineering director confirmed. The spokeswoman said Thille will work with our global learning development team to expand and innovate workplace learning in the amazon.

Without further details, Thille herself said she was “taking the time” from Stanford to do a project she had “no real freedom to discuss”.

With too little information about what Thille is going to do, it is too dangerous to speculate about what she and amazon are doing. But there are several reasons for her action.

First, Thille is very influential. As director of Carnegie Mellon university founded the open learning program (part transferred to Stanford university, she went to the left coast in 2013, an inside higher Ed special-shaped), she had done about the use of cognitive science and rich data pioneering work students how to learn to try to change the teaching process.

In her imagination, as she Educause in 2012 book “game changer” written in the book, the teaching and the development of educational technology from the “independence” into a “community-based research activities” (the concept is attributed to her deceased colleagues Herbert Simon) not only has the potential to improve learning, but also improve productivity and reduce cost of potential.

Open learning plans to use the existing open courses, insufficient help college of liberal arts education better academic students, or make time to be used for other purposes, and is used to develop a set of designed for community college courses.

Amazon’s goal

For those who specialize in higher education and public learning, her decision to work at amazon may be a major shift.

But Thille is as comfortable in her corporate environment as she is in academia, and she has worked for 18 years at a consulting firm focused on “collaborative change” and workplace learning.

She also not scholars (no doctorate, and she won the role, assistant professor of Stanford university is the first time she get the appointment of professor), and because internal agency inherent changes slowly and is well known (e.g., Carnegie Mellon university and at Carnegie Mellon university, Stanford university), professor is mainly responsible for exhibition.

Several observers said in the field of education technology, they were not surprised that a company like amazon, its business is largely dependent on the data analysis and almost constant experiment, they will instead become a high-profile learning scientists, to help its way to improve the training of employees.

“Amazon is trying new ways to deliver five products and services every day in different parts of the world,” said Louis Soares, vice President of policy research and strategy at education. “You need to learn (for employees), almost real-time.” ‘it’s hard to imagine someone who is better at attacking such a problem than tyr,’ he said.

For some observers, is not very clear is lure Thille by amazon, not obvious: have the opportunity to see the world from within one of the most dynamic organization.

Some people think that she is a signal, namely the enterprise learning is now most of the action in the field of science and technology and digital learning a signal, and Thille may feel it is easier to achieve the goals set up new learning model department is not bound by common governance, many people think that this is a kind of complacency.

Amazon has a lot of investment to produce their own internal technical, if Thille can help amazon in 18 months learning adaptability system must be set up to create a path for the employees, so this effect may be far more than the company.

(although working in a company seems to have shrunk the focus of Thille, last fall, amazon’s workforce exceeded the 500,000 mark, not a paltry number.)

Commitment and danger

There is another interesting aspect to Thille’s move.

In recent years, she has become increasingly concerned about the growing influence of business on student data.

Last autumn at the Stanford alumni conference speech, Thille to her work and vision are described in the class of 101, and in her to the so-called “learning environment technology intermediary” commitment excited at the same time, “which” students do every interaction is a evidence about their learning “.

Thille said that higher education is leading the field, like Google, Netflix and amazon such big enterprise players have created to capture a lot of data about our interface, so that they can “understand as consumers, we better”, “a better understanding of our target”.

She and other education workers have a lot to learn from these companies about how to collect important data, which she says can be used to understand that students are not consumers, but learners. “We can use the data we collect and its modeling, in order to supply human behavior in the education system is very important feedback” – the learners themselves timely targeted feedback, about the members of the student to teacher’s strengths and weaknesses of information, as well as student stumbled in what aspects related to these environmental data from design team.

Thille said the data could provide academics with the “food they need to study as researchers”.


However, she acknowledged that many faculty members and others were “afraid” of the vision – “for good reason,” she said.

“Because many of the systems and courseware that are being developed are designed to support learning, we outsourced them to the commercial sector.” Thille says many textbook publishers and self-adapting learning companies that are building platforms are using delivery instructions.

“Every time we gather some evidence will make all the decisions, and use it to learners make Suggestions or advice to teachers, if we don’t know is how to build, system just said:” trust us, it is effective, “I’ll tell you, this is alchemy – it is not scientific.

“Continued tiller, education workers must insist that” when we construct the new education mode, algorithm, characteristic, did to students and teachers () statement is public, is a peer-reviewed, is challenging.

Her suspicion of higher education’s outsourcing technology to the corporate sector does not necessarily conflict with Thille’s decision to work at amazon. Amazon has not yet (at least) produced the proprietary education software that Thille warns of, so the knowledge and expertise she brings to the company will not help her with the issues she is referring to.

On amazon for a period of time, probably the internal software to help company training its employees, although can give her a about using the data to understand the behaviors described in her speech at Stanford.


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