Virtual Evolution of Education


 

Does an education lead to revolution or does a revolution generate access to education?  It seems that currently there is a simultaneous evolution of both.

Billions can now gain access to an education that would otherwise be reserved for a privileged few depending on their social, economic, and geographic location.  A revolution in education is slowly taking place with the Internet as its primary driving force.  It’s simple; the internet allows easy access to streaming lectures while interactive elements on the site allow instructors to collect data from their students.  Think of all the potentially innovative perspectives that can emerge from diverse individuals gaining access to information.

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, created by organizations like edXCoursera, and Udacity are collectively working with universities like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford to create a college level education that is fully streamed online for free on the internet.   This will undoubtedly stir things up at brick and mortar institutions as well as private online universities when more people turn to MOOCs to replace their inflated and limited offered courses.

There are currently over 80 million people enrolled in some form of education system or institution in the United States ranging from kindergarten to graduate school. Currently, with all the budget cuts to education both on a local and federal level, the quality and access to education is becoming scarce.  However, each year there is a steady increase in the number of students taking online courses to replace the traditional classroom setting.

It will take time before MOOCs reach a point where they could replace the university system altogether. It seems more reasonable they could first transition as a supplement to established education systems or replace courses that have been stretched too thin by lack of funding.  However, in countries where access to formal education is nonexistent MOOCs serve as an incredible alternative. About 60% of the people signing up for MOOCs are from countries like China and Brazil, which are heavily populated and starving for information.

It’s hard to say what the effects of this revolution can lead to. A global drive to reach the peak of human innovation and intelligence? Could we grow out of such immature emotions like greed and dominance? Or would this lead to more government censorship and oppression due to the strain of competitiveness? What this evolution will undoubtedly lead to is the possibility of free, high quality education for anyone. 

 

Image courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons by: dullhunk