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March 7, 2007

Google University

James D. Carmine, a Philosophy professor at a US college, writes an open letter to Google:
It makes sense that for-profit institutions like Google, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles or even Starbucks, begin to consider applying for university accreditation, and offering degrees of their own. Clearly, well-run for-profits are vastly more economically efficient than any non-profit college or university. The efficiency is a consequence of following the basic economic principle that an informed consumer will always purchase the best value for the least money. I, like most parents, would happily send my children to Google University if I knew they would learn more there than at a higher priced university. (...)

Google could escape the tenure trap by not hiring any faculty at all. Instead of hiring the faculty themselves, institutions like Google could simply purchase a vast library of taped, high quality, lectures given by academic super stars or other top performing teachers who are willing to sell series of their lectures (perhaps even receiving residuals if they really rock!). These professors would operate as free agents in a digital world of Professors Without Borders. (...)

Google University (...) would not only reduce the cost of education to students, the competition between professors to produce the best lectures would create vastly superior lectures, and the competition between for-profit institutions in order to attract students would produce vastly better outcomes for students, and therefore would even help American corporations, like Google itself, who need highly competent employees.

James suggests that YouTube could be a good platform for distributing lectures and other Google tools could make learning much more efficient. Google Books and Google Scholar could be a universal library, Google Groups and Google Talk - a way to communicate, Google Docs - a platform for online assignments.


  1. Amazing idea. I've graduated from the University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!) but I would love to take classes at the 'U of G'...


    This is a BAD idea. I'd hate to tell people that my kids go to Starbucks University.

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! What is happening to the world?!?

  3. Sounds good to me and I might even go for a PhD at Google U.
    Generally speaking, universities are less efficient because they have less competitive incentive - and vested interest in maintaining the status quo, tenure, etc.

    In theory, Google (and other successful businesses) could simply advise universities, perhaps let their employees take sabbaticals to teach. It's been tried with varying degrees of success.

  4. Sounds much more like Dharma University...

  5. Many lectures and technical/educational videos are already published with google video.....

    and there's many and growing each week

  6. Let's not forget the influence of Wiki-classes, base on Wikipedia. Carnegie Mellon University already has a wiki-class where lectures are published and open to editing by students. According to the professor, this has improved his classes! Errors and confusions have been corrected and new ideas are evolving during the very presentation of those lectures! So this Google U bit has a heck of a lot more to it than initially meets the eye.

  7. Actually most good, accredited universities don't rely on the lecture method very much any more. They've found students learn more in small classes and seminars, which get more work out of the students. This is somewhat reflected in the comment above about Wikipedia being used in courses.
    In addition of course Google is ill-equipped to take on the evaluation (grading) and certification functions of the university.

  8. Why not have Google donuts, Google cars, Google coffee (why do u need Starbucks?) and Google underwear (may be we can 'see' some Google ingenuity there)... what say?

  9. Google has already started its foray into the educational world in creating the Google Teacher's Academy. There have been two sessions thus far, one at the Headquarters in Mountain View and the other in the new offices in New York. In each instance, teachers applied and 50 were selected to go through the training in using Google tools in education. I was in the first group in Mountain View and it was definitely beneficial. I use these tools everyday in my classes.

  10. Google U! The current higher education system is preparing our students for 1972. Let's give everyone in America a college degree upon birth and then let's start creating an educational system that is based on the democratic ideals of Web 2.0. The only thing that is keeping the current system afloat is parents' egos.

  11. Remember, in today's higher education system people do not want to be educated by Harvard. They want to be accepted by Harvard. The current system does not provide education. It provides a pecking order.

  12. Google U. could be the perfect application of technology to educate students. Do please put aside the idea of classes or seminars. Consider instead what graduates need to know and be able to do and unleash the technology to help them acquire those competencies. While you still need "faculty" you wouldn't have to have tenure or the same kinds of academic load.

  13. I thought of this idea also on my drive into work today while listening to a Podcast about Google. Google is in the process of making readily available a vast array of knowledge. Why not leverage this fantastic tool to teach?

    The earliest universities were built around their libraries. Google is the ultimate library.

    I think this is an idea that should seriously be considered.

  14. Huh! i don't want to finish the day with a back pain and stiff neck. And to top this bad eye sight. The idea of attending the lectures in a classroon still excites me.Since it gives me an oppurtunity to interact with "Humans" from both the genders. At least i will shape out to be a social animal.

  15. I whole heartedly agree, as a student myself i can see much knowledge that can be gained from the tools Google has provided. Providing education on the internet does not have to be a sole source of learning. It could be for us autodidacts who enjoy points of interest without having to enroll in a full fledged university. Also giving students a platform of which they are familiar with could be a great way of sharing ideas about a certain classes from all over the country!

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. also, what if Life magazine started a university? When I said I graduated from the University of Life to anyone, would they believe me?

  18. Education is not always about learning a profession. I hope people would see that it's more about changing, becoming someone else. It should introduce you to a new world where you want to stay for a little while and learn more and more.

    Universities should form students to become more sophisticated, analytic and reflected. They shouldn't be efficient but should inspire students to be the smartest and brightest. Universities has every opportunity to show students that their studies are fun.

    Businesses should give (money and knowledge) back and encourage students to do their best. They're the one gaining on our education.

  19. Obviously the professor writing this idea is not familiar with research into distance and online learning. DL is less popular generally with students, has a far higher drop-out rate, and is difficult to run cost-effectively. That said, results can in some cases equal but rarely surpass classroom instruction. So problem one is that DL is very, very hard to do right.

    Which brings us to problem two, for-profit learning has a very different character from traditional university learning. Both venues have their benefits and shortcomings. For-profit works best for meeting specified training objectives, non-profit works best for educating the whole person and creating a thinking populace capable of self-government. Going for-profit does not mean educational problems would be solved anymore than private enterprise has solved any our social or environmental or other problems.

    That said, this is a clever idea and at some level I am sure the major players are tracking the potential market for innovative educational products.

  20. I hope to attend too if google have university, I would like to learn on how their search engine rank all the website

  21. Does anyone know the weblink to Google's University? I haven't been able to find it anywhere and wanted to learn more after hearing an interesting talk about it.


  22. Link for Google University.

  23. A friend of mine is looking into a concept of an accredited online education that is free for it's students...and references Google University as a possible platform for it to be done. Check the link below for more information.

  24. The notion that for-profit universities are "clearly... more efficient" than non-profits begs the question "efficient at doing what?" The choices of the "informed consumer" begs the questions: who is the consumer (the parent, the student, the future employer, the society in general)? What are their goals? How do they predict what institutions might meet their goals (U.S. News rankings?)?

    Universities have many different stakeholders with different goals, and different preconceptions and positions in society to protect. I have no doubt that if Google's people were to apply themselves to a University with broad human-development objectives, and adopted an evidence-based continuous quality improvement paradigm, they would quickly find that Scholar, Groups, and Blogger are just the beginning.

  25. I watch lectures on google all the time. My learning is self-directed and spans across politics, economics, philosophy, linguistics, religion, history, semantics, artificial Intelligence etc.

    I feel a little as if my learning is directed at some level by google and google video, but it's not immediately obvious if there's an emergent structure underneath that will support my studies, and provide a framework for earning...

    I think google university will be an open source effort in a very obvious way - I intend to go out and make educational documentaries and video lectures on current and relevant topics and then upload them to google video as part of my coursework...

    Once I've uploaded five or ten interesting lectures, I think I'll edit them down (editing other referenced open source material into a final thesis and then upload it to youtube because it has a decent forum/commentary system.

    Ultimately my grade will be reflected in real terms by how many hits the thesis gets and I'll be able to gather commentary and stimulate debate through the use of the forum.

    In addition, I can add notes to the video if corrections are pointed out in the forums and add links to documents in google scholar as references and appendices etc.


    It would behoove google to develop a 'google cirriculum' which organizes video lectures, library resources, student theses' and classes as forums for discussions using the system to help us by providing comprehensive study paths.

    We could then follow a path by ticking off each lecture in turn according to the learning path that interests us individually, tracking which lectures we've watched, and keeping public or private notes in google docs.

    I think we ought to largely assess our own level of learning, and adjust it to fit our own individual cognitive styles. In this way studying becomes more modular and less institutional and prescriptive, allowing for productivity at a level which is comfortable.

    Assessment of work would be decentralized to institution funded satellites located in major universities, localized to accomodate different cultural needs and given full technical support by google tools.


  26. I disagree strongly with most of the axioms of this post; there's little more that I can say, I'm afraid!

  27. is already there and we use it daily to school several people that need higher learning.

    if google would just buy this out and keep all the teachers interested they would start a movement outside of the classroom.
    give the teachers some sort of extra tax benefit or a per class bonus and it will spread like wildfire.
    Kids learn differently now then they did 10 yrs ago and we will have people that are 30 yrs in the industry teaching 30 yr old methods waiting for thier retirement to kick in.

    Just a thought.

    By the way, i am a true student of google university.
    i am now a Director of IT that has never taken a class in his life.
    and i have several hours a day of google to thank for it.

    The new learner..

  28. ONLY for the Philosophy students - this might work ... NOT FOR any science / engineering major ......

  29. The fact of the matter is we are converging towards this everyday as we send more and more time on the internet. Here is a fact. University that use to teach mathematics out of a text book are now using online services to do the teaching for them. The teaching has now been taken out of the grad students hands and now have been placed by software that is accessed by the internet. What use to be teachers at university are no longer making up their own math problems and grading homework are now just sitting back and letting the software that is developed by some other do all the work. What the university's are not seeing is they are about to put them selves right out of business by just being lazy. Sorry but thats how I see it. NOW that all that is said , I really think this is the way to go. But why are our students having to purchase a membership to these websites when they are paying the university to do the job of teaching. Its time google or microsoft takes action on this. Lets let the university do research and take the teaching out of their hands. Thats what they want anyway. Google is already set up for this it just needs to organize and get accredited so we can now get that piece of paper. We have home schoolers for high school and we can have homes schoolers for college. The time has come we are all ready and are very willing. Lets get is going GOOGLE , Microsoft

  30. Great idea. We have started doing something like this (at a small scale) at:
    Glad to hear that a big mover like Google is interested.

    Tom Adamson
    Assistant Professor, Computer Game Design and Development,
    Southern New Hampshire University.

  31. Jeremy Martin said...
    ONLY for the Philosophy students - this might work ... NOT FOR any science / engineering major ......September 13, 2010 10:52 AM


    Top institutions like Columbia, NYU Poly, U of Illinois, and Lehigh already offer Master's degrees in Engineering. University of North Dakota offers several Bachelor's degrees in Engineering.

    Partnerships with established universities and businesses could provide vital lab experiences and in-person collaboration. I'd like to see a University of Google Student Union in every global city, with all of the quirky characteristics that have made google office campuses so famous.

    Google University could be wonderful for people seeking accredited degrees in Engineering, Science, Math, Architecture, etc..

  32. awesome idea it'll help people who don't have reach to very good lecturers....:)
    but they should it quickly...
    GO GOOGLE!!!!

  33. This is not a good idea for two reasons that should be obvious.

    First, professors need institutions and support to do their research and stay current. Without the financial support and infrastructure of universities, they will not be able to do their jobs in the first place, let alone expand their subject areas. The system advocated here would simply disseminating outdated work much like a second hand store sells clothes. That's not the kind of education I want my kids to have.

    Second, curriculum design is key. Any thoughtful teacher or professor designs their students' learning experience in a way that brings them coherently into the crux of the material. Without guidance, such as recommended readings, analysis and teacher feedback, it would be impossible to actually assign credentials to this sort of free-for-all degree program.

    What is promising is that so much information is now freely available. This undoubtedly has led people to be able to teach themselves, such as the anonymous "New Learner" above. However, it must be remembered that much of the "free" information comes from paid professors and professionals. Their time is valuable and should not simply be expected without due compensation.

    Of course much of the compensation for the current online content is coming from the non-profit universities the creator of this post hopes to replace. Without these institutions, the knowledge available to us from a for-profit system would look drastically different. Personally, I believe that there are things we should learn that don't necessarily derive from a private sector interest, like democracy.

  34. sed "s/google/amazon/gi"
    sed "s/google/starbucks/gi"
    sed "s/google/any_other_company/gi"

    Google needs good engineers. Google already has good engineers, but will always need more of them.

    Ergo - Google needs people that know the basics, coming from the usual universities with either bachelor degrees or master degrees.

    However, these new people do not have all the knowledge about search algorithms, Linux clusters, high availability clusters....

    Ergo - Google always needs to add specializations on top of the existing materials.

    Question - would other companies benefit from an engineer trained in these subjects. Most often yes, however, most often Google will not be happy to train somebody just to see him go somewhere else......

    Well, maybe if they would have a business model based on Open Source, allowing them to still make money while sharing their knowledge.... Ooops, wait, maybe they already have.....

    Well today we see more and more totally unrelated domains embracing an Open Source model. The academic domain was always modeled similar to open source software. We even see CIA using "open sourced intelligence"....Are they all really that similar? If the answer is even remotely closed to yes, expect significant changes in the way we gain our knowledge and in the way we get accredited for our knowledge.

    Now, as you can see, I am enamored of Open Source as we see it in GPL software and as you see it in Wikipedia. Should this be called rather Open Knowledge? Should it require anybody getting the knowledge to further help spreading it further (the viral quality of GPL)? Different people will come with different answers, but I strongly believe we need to all admit the future can only be in this direction.

  35. I want to write an open letter for google too. you should check this persuasive essay topics and tell me what do you like most.


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