What we’re learning from online education

Excellent conference by Daphne Koller (although 2012, a highly topical issue), from Coursera at www.TED.com that describes the advantages of online education (with subtitles in different languages).

We can identify the following sections of the video:

  • Accessibility of education worldwide
    (for instance, the cost of higher education tuition has been increasing at almost twice the rate, for a total of 559 percent since 1985. This makes education unaffordable for many people).
  • Modularity
    You can break up the material, for example, into these short, modular units of eight to 12 minutes, each of which represents a coherent concept. Students can traverse this material in different ways, depending on their background, their skills or their interests.
  • Retrieval practice
    As well as other forms of practice in many ways. For example, even our videos are not just videos. Every few minutes, the video pauses and the students get asked a question.
  • How do you grade the work of 100,000 students?
    The answer is, you need to use technology to do it for you. We can now grade a range of interesting types of homework, like multiple choice and short answer questions, we can also grade math, mathematical expressions as well as mathematical derivations. We can grade models, whether it’s financial models in a business class or physical models in a science or engineering class and we can grade some pretty sophisticated programming assignments.
    Now, we cannot yet grade the range of work that one needs for all courses. Specifically, what’s lacking is the kind of critical thinking work that is so essential in such disciplines as the humanities, the social sciences, business and others.
  • Global community
    of students collaborating with each other, e. g. with a forum of questions and answers, where some students raised their doubts and others answered them.
  • Personalization
    is made possible by the large amount of information collected.
  • Are universities obsolete?
    Mark Twain said,”College is a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either”.
    I think it wasn’t the universities that I was criticizing, but the face-to-face classes. Plutarch said,”The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.” Perhaps we should spend less time filling the minds of students and more time igniting their creativity, imagination and problem-solving skills from genuine interaction with them.

What effect would it have on providing quality education to everyone in the world, free of charge?

  1. Education would be established as a fundamental right. Anyone in the world with the capacity and motivation, could develop the skills they need to autonomously improve their quality of life, that of their family and community.
  2. Enable lifelong learning. We would be able to learn something new every time we wanted, whether it’s just to expand our minds or it’s to change our lives.
  3. Enable a wave of innovation, because amazing talent can be found anywhere. Maybe the next Albert Einstein or the next Steve Jobs is living somewhere in a remote village in Africa. And if we could offer that person an education, they would be able to come up with the next big idea and make the world a better place for all of us.

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Jaime Oyarzo Espinosa

Jaime Oyarzo Espinosa - jaime.oyarzo@uah.es Profesor Honorífico de Investigación Universidad de Alcalá Honorary Professor of Research University of Alcalá, Spain Instructional Designer Lund University Education, Sweden Dirección de proyectos e-Learning (América Latina, Africa) Me interesan los proyectos que vinculan innovación y aprendizaje con ayuda de la tecnología. Especialmente si tienen como objetivo una transformación personal, organizativa y de desarrollo económico para la región involucrada. Blog (Spanish): http://jaimeoyarzo.blogspot.com/ Blog (English): http://alfavirtual.com/wp/virtualed/