Will Online Colleges Make Traditional Education Systems Obsolete?
Education has Historically Been a Lesson in Time/Space Learning Limitation
“I know that I know nothing” were words attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates, the founder of Western education. Indeed, this has been the universal prevailing sentiment held by the truest of scholars throughout time; so long as there remains horizons yet to be crossed how can we ever be satisfied that we’re truly aware of everything there is to know? We may never satisfy this desire to become entirely educated in an ideal sense, but technology has certainly allowed the peoples of the world to benefit from global knowledge in a way that has never been accomplished before. We’re now able to take our learning experience beyond any horizon without leaving the living room.
Which presents challenges. Since the time of Socrates, it’s been essentially the same system: gather eager minds around a lecturer. But now with computer terminals at-hand, we can access information without the need of an educator. So for the first time since the start of recorded history, the role of the teacher has been called into question. We are no longer bound by the limitations of time and space, so how should we go about utilizing this new shift into educational dimensions previously unexplored?
Where the Fledgling Success has Come From
In spite of decades of research dedicated to figuring out a way to properly educate individual sans teacher through communications terminals, it seems that the biggest successes so far in online education still include humans as part of the process. Take for instance the widely successful non-profit Khan Academy, a free online resource of hours upon hours of math, reading, and science lectures presented by the Academy’s founder Salman Khan. Bill Gates uses Khan’s system for his own children. Analysts consider the academy’s focus on “go-at-your-own-pace” learning to be central to its success. Unlike traditional learning environments, viewers of Khan’s videos can pause and rewind them. You can ask a teacher to repeat herself, but maybe you need it repeated twelve times, which isn’t efficient inside a classroom.
The Khan Academy combined with the rising popularity of online university education is indicating that individuals still prefer the human element in their education. While straightforward access to information is profoundly advantageous, and in its own part contributory to the success of virtual education, the ability to still have information articulately explained through the filter of human understanding goes a long way to help growing brains take big steps.
What Technology Trends Tells Us About the Future of E-Learning
The classroom is not going to disappear over night. But there is high expectation that it will slowly but surely become irrelevant. One day Skype or something like it will dominate classrooms. Imagine the ability for a Supreme Court Justice to address every classroom across the country at the same time. In fact, many teachers are broadcasting Khan Academy videos to their students already. The elements that may ultimately be the undoing of the classroom will creep into them years beforehand.
But when mobile web browsing becomes optimized to the pointed where anyone can access any information anywhere and be connected to educational institutions in a similar fashion, the traditional classroom will either do one of two things: disappear entirely or experience a Renaissance based on the need to keep students regimented when they otherwise can learn from anywhere at anytime.
Perhaps it will be the demand for young students and all levels of learners to socially interact that ultimately preserves the traditional classroom or at least justifies its existence. Even Salman Khan says his video lectures are only half of the answer, students should spend an equal part of their educational experience among each other solving problems as a collective.
In a world that’s becoming increasingly virtually connected but equally disconnected in reality, perhaps mandated education will shift from being an emphasis on academic understanding and turn into lessons on how to function in the otherwise marginalized real world.
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