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Provost Lecture Series to Explore 'Big Data' Challenge

Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller to speak at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1

The seventh annual Duke University Provost Lecture Series will feature prominent experts in the world of data, research and computer science to probe the future of information and the opportunities that exist through the use of "big data."

The lectures are free and open to the public. 

University research requires the collection, storage and analysis of large amounts of data to help students navigate the computational world. The lecture series invites leaders to present their perspectives on scholarship between disciplines, opportunities for new instruction methods, entrepreneurship within the educational experience, and how to organize information.

"The glut of information today is often seen as just that, an avalanche of undigestable bits, and to some extent this is true," said Duke Provost Peter Lange. "But when universities, their faculty, students and expert staff seek to address, rather than decrying, this flow -- filtering it, evaluating it, directing it and using it to create and disseminate knowledge -- then the opportunities are great and should be seized."

The series begins at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, with "The Online Revolution: Education for Everyone," a talk by Daphne Koller, the co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Coursera, an education company based in California. The talk will be held in Room 0014 Westbrook Building in Duke's Divinity School

Coursera provides a platform for universities like Duke and more than a dozen others to offer free, online classes. Koller, the Rajeev Motwani Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, will discuss how this model, which aims to make high-quality education accessible to everyone, can improve the classroom experience for students on campus as well as for the millions of students who log in from around the world. 

Later that week, at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, the series continues with a talk, "Technologies for a Mobile Society" by Sebastian Thrun, the chief executive office of Udacity. The online educational initiative encourages students to pursue projects with university instructors. Currently a part-time research professor at Stanford University and a Google Fellow, Thrun has published more than 350 papers and been elected into the National Academy of Engineering. His talk will also be held in the Divinity School in Room 0016 Westbrook Building.

Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon University will present "Duolingo: Learn a Language for Free While Helping Translate the Web," at 4 p.m. Nov. 7, in Room 217, Perkins Library. Von Ahn, an associate professor of computer science, is on a mission to translate Web pages -- including video and tweets -- into every major language. His project, Duolingo, aims to transcend the language barrier and make the Internet accessible to all, especially Web newcomers logging on from developing regions. 

The Provost Lecture Series brings the university's research and teaching mission to bear on timely issues. The substance of the lecture series is developed with input from a committee of faculty. In addition to giving a public lecture, speakers are invited to meet with students and faculty in smaller group activities. 

For more information on upcoming lectures in the spring, visit