In ancient Greek city-states the agora bustled with activity and people gathered to discuss sport, art, religion, politics, and philosophy… then along came the classroom where youth assembled to hear learned-men lecture, notes were taken with graphite, and knowledge was transmitted orally and recorded in books.
Enter the World Wide Web – accumulated knowledge at our fingertips!
I recall Alvin Toffler’s doom and gloom predictions of widespread stress and disorientation resulting from information overload as the super-accelerated technological age wreaked havoc on our collective psychology. But the age of information with the advent of the Internet has, for the most part, made life (…and I speak for myself) less stressful, especially for students. Don’t you remember the stress of missing the library, or not having the right notes the night before a test?
In the 1980’s I can remember being too shy to ask for help in maths and subsequently falling behind only to be euphemistically labeled “right-brained” later by my step-dad. Nowadays this binary way of thinking that divides the population into right- and left-brained types is being challenged (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15619393). With myriad web-resources at our fingertips, the students of today can afford to be globally-brained.
In fact, the future of academia may be just a right-click away. Stanford University offers an introductory course in Artificial Intelligence entirely online and entirely open to anyone with access to the web. The online class is practically identical to the one offered on-campus for paying-registered students except for one thing: instead of receiving course credit, non-registered global students are awarded an official statement of accomplishment. Otherwise, lectures, assignments, midterms and finals are the same. In 2011, only 200 Stanford students enrolled in the on-campus course compared to 160,000 students from 190 different countries that took the course online! The implication this has for the future of education is astounding. Imagine if higher education was made available to everyone for free; they’re calling it University 2.0.
New virtual learning environments are cropping up everywhere in a new global access approach to education. Some names to keep an eye out for are Udacity.com, Codeacademy.com, Open.edu/openlearn, Education.ted.com and my absolute favorite Khanacademy.org.
Salman Khan launched Khan Academy in 2006 so he could distance-tutor his 13-year old cousin in maths. The Khan Academy website offers over 3,200 You Tube videos on everything from arithmetics, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, economics, art history… and the list goes on. He breaks it down into short easy-to-understand videos that sketch out example after example from the very basic fundamentals to complex problems. Bill Gates has referred to Khan Academy as “the future of education”. If university 2.0 represents the first fledgling steps on the path towards the democratization of education then the future looks bright.
Now I leave you with Pink Floyd: