TED Talk: The 100 000 Student Classroom

22 April 2013


I was flicking through some TED talks today and the title ‘The 100 000 Student Classroom’ caught my attention!

It is a short TED Talk video from 2012 by Peter Norvig about his journey of designing and delivering an online course.  The aim was to create a learning environment that felt like one on one tuition despite the fact they had over 160 000 enrolments.

This caught my attention because I had just been in a meeting with a school where they were debating some research that found that class size is not a determinate on student performance.


As you can imagine, the teachers were adamant that class sizes affected their ability to teach, and as a result the quality of the learning experience was diminished   The school board where arguing that they could cut costs and increase revenue through increasing class sizes and used the research to validate the claim that student results wouldn’t fall due to the increase numbers in the classroom

To be honest, it wasn’t my favourite staff meeting I had been invited to present at!

It is worth keeping in mind when you are watching the following TED Talk that the context is a university course.  However, if you are a teacher in a K-12 environment, you need to be aware that in a climate of shrinking budgets, and increasing political pressure to perform that ways of increasing class sizes is very much on the agenda of most governments and independent school boards.


01:45 – You can replicate the feeling of 1 on 1 tutoring

02:30 – They try to keep their videos to two minutes or less

03:00 – The use of open ended questions are essential

03:45 – In a lot of online classes, the video can be watched at any time.  Peter found it was essential to keep everyone working on the same thing.  The video was only available for 1 week

04:30 – Peers are the best teachers because they can remember what it is like to not understand

05:35 – A number of universities are now copying this model

You might also like to check out a playlist consisting of 12 TED Talks about re-imagining school.

Question: What’s the optimum class size?


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