Rice University professor Richard Baraniuk has a giant vision: to create a free global online education system that puts the power of creation and collaboration in the hands of teachers worldwide. He’s realizing that vision with Connexions, a website that allows teachers to quickly „create, rip, mix and burn” coursework — without fear of copyright violations. Think of it as Napster for education. Connexions’ open-source system cuts out the textbook, allowing teachers to share course materials, modify existing work and disseminate it to their students — all for free, thanks to Creative Commons licensing. Baraniuk envisions Connexions as a repository where the most up-to-date material can be shared and reviewed (it’s far more efficient than waiting for a textbook to be printed); it could become a powerful force in leveling the education playing field. Currently encompassing hundreds of online courses and used by a million people worldwide, Baraniuk’s virtual educational system is revolutionizing the way people teach and learn.
Baraniuk has received numerous awards, including a NATO postdoctoral fellowship from NSERC in 1992, the National Young Investigator award from the National Science Foundation in 1994, a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research in 1995, the Rosenbaum Fellowship from the Isaac Newton Institute of Cambridge University in 1998, the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign ECE Young Alumni Achievement Award in 2000, and the Wavelet Pioneer Award from SPIE in 2008. Connexions received the Tech Museum Laureate Award from the Tech Museum of Innovation in 2006, and Baraniuk was selected as one of Edutopia Magazine’s Daring Dozen educators in 2007. In 2008, Baraniuk received the Internet Pioneer Award from Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and in 2009 he received the World Technology Award for education. Baraniuk was elected a Fellow of the IEEE in 2001 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2009.
In 2012, Dr. Baraniuk launched OpenStax College, a non-profit initiative to develop high-quality free college textbooks for some of world’s most at-risk students. As of March 2015, OpenStax College textbooks have been adopted at 1200 institutions, saving 300,000 students over $30 million.
Currently, Dr. Baraniuk is developing advanced machine learning algorithms and a software platform for a personalized learning system called OpenStax Tutor that integrates text, video, simulations, problems, feedback hints, and tutoring and optimizes each student’s learning experience based on their background, context, and learning goals.
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