SOBA: How Are MOOCs Changing Science Education?

Join our panel to discuss the challenges and opportunities of online science education.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


December 11, 2012 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun’s course, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, made headlines from The New York Times to the Huffington Post for having 160,000 students sign up, but did you know that none of the 248 students who got a perfect grade were actually enrolled at Stanford? Clearly, the role of the classroom in higher education is changing, and “massively open online courses” (MOOCs) are leading the way.

How will extending high-quality science education to more people change how research is done? Will MOOCs lead to more fact-based discussions of controversial scientific topics like climate change and genetically modified organisms? Will the “flipped classroom” enable schools to rein in the spiraling cost of higher education and train more scientists? Join Relly Brandman of Coursera, writer Keith E. Grant, and Stanford professor Kristin Sainani for a discussion of these questions and more at this month’s SOBA.

Presentations are followed by a panel discussion moderated by Christian Simm, swissnex San Francisco’s Executive Director. The audience Q&A will be followed by a conversation at a nearby bar (to be announced at the event). During the discussion portion of the evening, we’ll probe the challenges and opportunities of MOOCs. Bring your questions!

*Presentations and discussion will be livestreamed. Follow the event on Twitter (@sciobayarea and #sobay), and like SOBA on Facebook.


Relly Brandman

Relly Brandmanis a senior member of the Course Operations team at Coursera.  She works with universities all over the world to produce high-impact and engaging classes.  Before coming to Coursera, Relly got her PhD at Stanford University as part of the Folding@Home team and did her postdoctoral studies at UCSF building computational models of critical Tuberculosis enzymes. She has many years of teaching experience in chemistry and computational biology, including hands-on workshops and coaching teachers.  She is excited about her new adventure being part of a team bringing free, high quality education to anybody with an internet connection.


Keith Eric Grant

Keith Eric Grant (PhD, Applied Science, U.C. Davis) spent several decades as a computational physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL). As part of the Atmospheric Sciences Division, he helped develop aerosol and radiative-transfer models for atmospheric chemistry and climate assessments. He also worked with the Center for Applied Scientific Computing (CASC) in developing the SUNDIALS suite of massively parallel numerical solvers. Post LLNL, his focus is on writing about atmospheric science and mathematical biology. In his spare time, he is both a hiker and instructor of massage therapy.


Kristin Sainani

Kristin Sainani (née Cobb) is a clinical assistant professor at Stanford University and also a health and science writer. After receiving an MS in statistics and PhD in epidemiology from Stanford University, she studied science writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has taught statistics and writing at Stanford for a decade. She also writes about science for a range of audiences. Her stories appear in: Stanford magazine, Stanford Medicine magazine, and Biomedical Computation Review. She authors the health column Body News forAllure magazine. She is also the statistical editor for the journal Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and she authors a statistics column, Statistically Speaking, for the journal PM&R. She recently taught her first MOOC, Writing in the Sciences, on Coursera.


Christian Simm

Christian Simm is the Executive Director and Founder of swissnex San Francisco. He likes to describe himself as a recovering phycisist and a complexity manager. He recently dived into the world of MOOCs by visiting key players in Silicon Valley for a post on nextrends.






Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos