Yesterday two interesting articles dealing with online education were published on Mashable and TechCrunch.
The one on Mashable is written by Marco Masoni, Founder of Einztein which is an online portal for finding the best courses and video lectures on a certain topic and the one on TechCrunch is a recap of an interview with Bill Gates at the Techonomy conference.
The two posts are kind of complementary to each other and both Gates and Masoni agree that the future of education is on the internet. Gates’ point is that in five years from now you will be able to find the best lectures on the web which will offer you a far better choice than any single university can.
“Place-based” higher education was simply too expensive and also unreachable for most people who would like to learn. Hence it is important that people get credit for what they learned, no matter where and how they learned it.
Masoni is already one step ahead in his article. He believes that it is necessary to rethink course design for the internet as most course providers simply throw their stuff on the internet and hope for the best which can quickly result in a fatigue of potential students.
His turn is that courses need to be alive and cope with the world around us. In the real time web as we know it today information (content) is provided in mass and hence we simply need institutions that are experienced in transforming this content into digestible learning chunks. In his example he takes the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico. There are tons of charts, videos and other related information available. So why is none of the big publishers taking this information and builds a lesson / course upon it.
I agree with Gates that the distribution of knowledge will be done via the internet / cloud. Nevertheless, I believe that most of the “best” content will still be created by universities. There will be a shift in accessibility of course and people who could not afford to study in those institutions will get access to it. Therefore, I don’t think that those universities needed to be afraid of change as it will open them to new “customer groups”. Prices will decrease but sign ups will also increase massively.
Another important point is the acknowledgment of your knowledge no matter how you came about it and funny enough I am thinking about the same topic for about a week now. For me, it is clear that we need something like a “Learning Graph” similar to our “Social Graph” where we save all our learning information. For example, as I am learning Spanish on my iPod the results should be saved in my Learning Graph and I’m certain they will be in the future, if I watch a Stanford video lecture on Roman architecture this should also be saved in my Learning Graph.
If I then apply for a university or job I could add the institution or employer on the list of people who will be able to access this graph and hence they can check my skills and knowledge on all the topics I dealing with. This would give them a whole new idea on the skills of each applicant.
As we learned from Eric Schmidt two days ago, mankind is now producing the same amount of information (content) every two days as we did from the dawn of civilization up to 2003. As a consequence it will get increasingly important to have curators who scan, select, categorize and comment the content on the web.
Einztein is one of these platforms but of course there will be more and more of them. Don’t forget Academic Earth for example or Fora.TV. In a next step those hubs will then become part of the Learning Graph where I can earn credits by viewing video lectures and taking an online test afterwards.