Democratization and low cost access to knowledge are the main effects technology has on education.
Web-based open courses are leading a change in disseminating the knowledge and transforming society at large. The SocialEDU is a new education initiative led by EdX and Facebook that aims to provide students in Rwanda with free access to a collaborative online learning experience.
There has never been a better time to get an education. Years ago, looking at the American college options from a war-torn Serbia, it was difficult to access any learning materials online. Courses reviewing the GRE, GMAT and TOEFL tests were not available even in traditional classrooms in Belgrade. For many, the doors of the world class universities remained forever closed.
With the development of online technologies, quality education is getting more available to a global audience. From various test preparation courses to poetry, finance and entrepreneurship classes, it seems the whole world now is going online to get an education.
These days, I am at the Yale Broadcast & Media Center filming an online lecture series in The Moral Foundations of Politics for Coursera with legendary political theorist, Dr. Ian Shapiro. It will produce a wonderful opportunity for students around the world with nothing but a wifi connection to get a sense of what it’s like to be in a Yale classroom. Exposure to the ideas and teaching methods of the most influential thinkers will be a mind opening experience Online learning is driving educational mobility to a global level.
Open Education: Democratization via Coursera and EdX
The world of educational technology continues to develop rapidly. Web-based open courses are leading an innovative change in disseminating knowledge around the world. Over the past few years, several Ivy League universities have started with Open courses. Yale, Stanford and MIT have all used technology to produce video recordings of their most prominent faculty members lectures. A step in a new direction was a creation of unified online learning platforms such as Coursera and EdX.
Coursera was founded by two Stanford University professors, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng who united around a shared vision for utilizing technology to expand educational opportunities worldwide. The other online learning platform, EdX was founded by Harvard and MIT. Recently, EdX partnered with Facebook to create the SocialEDU that aims to provide students in Rwanda with free access to a collaborative online education experiences. Facebook and EdX want to use the power of online social tools to help students reach their educational goals. This has all served to illustrate how new technologies and educational initiatives can potentially tackle inequalities and transform societies.
Low cost access to knowledge
While the costs of traditional education are increasing, the expansion of online learning is simultaneously taking place. Online education provides opportunities to people who may not otherwise have access to a university-level education to enhance their skills. For example, Open Learning Initiative offers online courses to anyone who wants to learn and teach. One of their goals is to provide tangible credit bearing opportunities to students in order to reduce the burden of college debt and make it more feasible for people to complete their degrees or go back to school.
Whether one seeks to go deeper into a particular subject or learn something entirely new, technology allows for an immediate access to knowledge at any place and time. I am talking to Sean Lip, one of the developers of Oppia-a newly released tool for creating interactive online activities that enable students to learn by doing- about how the whole platform came to be.
“From previous teaching experience, I’ve found that students learn better when they have opportunities to demonstrate their understanding. However, when I tried to create some interactive learning material online some time ago, I could not find a tool that made it easy for me to do this. This is how Oppia came about: it’s an open-source project that allows people to create interactive educational activities that allow others to learn by doing. I think one of the ways technology can help most in education is by making it possible for students to access educational experiences which otherwise wouldn’t be available to them. The oppia.org exists to make it easy for people to construct interactive educational activities and share them with the world, and to allow these activities to be collaboratively improved so that they can become increasingly useful for learners over time,” says Sean Lip.
Look into the Future: is Technology the Answer?
New developments in online learning, interactive textbooks, and open educational resources have significant strategic implications for educational enterprise. The question many are raising is whether or not online learning can replace face-to-face campus experience. However, the purpose of technologies is not to replace the traditional education but to enhance it. Communications tools such as e-mail and online discussion forums, allow students to post their reading responses. Synchronous technologies such as webcasting, interactive video content, and chat rooms help approximate face-to-face learning experiences while allowing students to learn at their own pace.
Through experimentation and measurement of educational online platforms, better ways of teaching could be developed over time. As technology develops, we can expect to see a growing trend in the translation of online lectures into more and more world languages.
Ours is the digital age. We date online, read online, shop online, and make friends online. Why then would innovation in teaching, learning and research be an exception to that? Meet me in the worldwide classroom.