Daphne Koller: How to Get an Education in Your PJs

June 20 - On The Dot

FIRST THOUGHT: Get Educated!

During the weekend, I attended a conference full of educators and innovators. In more than a couple sessions, panelists contended particular careers require lifelong learning. A physician, for example, can’t stick with her 1970s med-school education if she wants to stay relevant and help her patients. This week, get in the learning mindset. (No protractors necessary!) Identify a subject you’d like to know more about then spend some time thinking of the best ways to learn about it—online courses, getting help from a mentor, studying a particular textbook—and set a reasonable deadline for implementing this academic work into your busy life. It might not be as easy as learning your ABCs, but it’s worth it. So, put on your thinking cap, hit the books and embrace your continuing education with an open mind.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: Nearly 6 Million

Lifelong learning is challenging because, as adults, we don’t have a nagging Miss Nelson doling out weekly assignments, deadlines and grades. But if you’re itching to unearth new topics, such structure might be just the thing you need to get you to skip that after-hours cocktail. And you certainly won’t be the only student doing so. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that during the fall 2014 semester, nearly 6 million Americans were enrolled in distance-learning courses through degree-granting postsecondary institutions.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Daphne Koller, Co-founder of Coursera

When your high-school and college days are behind you but your attraction to education remains, the challenge comes in managing your education pursuits with all those adulting to-dos. That means you need flexibility, like being able to take a class in your PJs while eating leftovers at 9 p.m. because that’s when your littles are asleep and you actually have a bit of quiet time to yourself.

Daphne Koller totally gets it. A longtime college-level educator, she is dedicated to helping catapult 21st century learning. And she co-founded Coursera—an online education platform that partners with the world’s best universities and educational institutions to offer courses to anyone, anywhere at any time—with that idea in mind.

Daphne and her co-founder, both previously computer-science professors at Stanford University, launched Coursera in an effort to help educate far more people than they could in an entire lifetime in the classroom. And it’s working! Coursera students love the ability to pick and choose courses that interest them or follow a particular specialization.

For instance, through Coursera, you can take courses to attain your TESOL certificate to teach English to speakers of other languages, a certification granted from Arizona State University. Or you can delve into the exciting world of dog psychology through the Dog Emotion and Cognition course from Duke University. From computer programming to Excel skills for business to Buddhism and even master’s degrees in a variety of subjects, Coursera offers more than 1,700 active courses for its 23 million registered users. I’m no mathematician but I’d say the probability of finding something that interests you is sky high.

Daphne understands we human beings have myriad interests but are often forced to choose one path. Through her own studies in computer science, from earning her Ph.D. to teaching at Stanford University for nearly two decades, she’s been guided by a curiosity of how technology can benefit regular people. Through Coursera, Daphne has been able to extend her curiosity and hunger for learning to anyone in the world who’s interested in bettering his or her life through education. And we think that earns her an A-plus!

Are you gunning for that next promotion or gearing up to start your next passion project? We’ve curated our top five online educational sources for DIY learning. Learn more by following this link or heading to www.OnTheDotWoman.com.


In 2012, shortly after Coursera was launched, Thomas Friedman wrote about it in The New York Times, noting it is the time of the education revolution, saying:

“Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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