A version of this article appeared August 31, 2012 on edudemic.
Digital Education is today where Digital Music was in 2001. The digital music revolution started unintended when a peer-to-peer file service “Napster” started by Sean Parker & Shawn Fanning in 1999 controversially morphed into a digital music sharing service. It became mainstream with highly successful launch of iPod & iTunes in 2001 and now services like Spotify is taking it to next level by integrating it to our increasingly digital life style. As in case of all life changing trends, an unintended start changed the whole experience of buying and consuming music.
I enjoy being part of the generation caught in between a massive revolution (Digital Immigrants – Digital Natives). It is fascinating to see how technology is becoming so pervasive that it is re-disrupting cultures all over again. As in the case of digital music, the most fundamental driving force to this change is the Internet. The Internet has fundamentally boosted our ability to access and share knowledge. Internet has already allowed us to re-imagine everything from book to news to note taking to crime awareness, and trends suggest that Internet is now all set to change the way we experience education.
There’s been a long-time joke in education: if Rip Van Winkle woke up today, he’d be puzzled by just about every aspect of modern life–from planes to tablets –but he’d feel right at home in many classrooms. Now that’s starting to change in a big way.
Education has two challenges – access & effectiveness where technology can help more than it has in the past. It all started very quietly with Bill Gates favorite teacher Salman Khan’s you tube channel, followed by highly successful “A.I. Class” experiment of Stanford University where over 160,000 enrolled from 190 countries.
Lets scan few path breaking initiatives that I feel has a promise to change education forever.
MOOC: At the forefront we have, Udacity, edX, and Coursera (the “Big Three?”) that work with leading American universities to offer free online courses known as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC’s. Just in matter of months they have reached two million registered students from roughly over 200 countries. Students in MOOC’s typically watch short video lectures, complete automatically graded tests or assignments, and use online communities to work through concepts they don’t understand. MOOC’s mission is to make the world’s best academic programs accessible to masses for free.
Online Degrees: Led by 2u, known to be most funded education startup, there are hosts of private technology companies such us Straighterline who are on the mission of taking campuses online. They work with physical campuses to convert the courses offered in digital format so that they can be delivered online. They offer to reduce the cost of education and make the universities universally accessible.
Social Learning and Content Management: Led by Edmodo, Schoology and Lore this is the most active space. The idea here is to apply modern social web technology to enhance effectiveness and management of in campus delivery of education. Most of these products have seen very large-scale adoption in the recent past and some of these are on the way to emerge as the integral part of formal education. Another notable player in this segment is Canvas that has seen significant adoption since it’s launch.
Next Generation Analytics: The stack of products that underpins our educational institutions and helps them run is generally archaic and no longer keeping up with new technologies. Here we have players such as Clever has been developing a standardized API that makes it easy for K-12 schools to unlock their data and for developers to access and build applications on top of that data. Piazza, a question-and-answer service for students and teachers. Desmos, which makes a Web-based graphing calculator. Knewton that makes a personalization and adoptive learning platform
To me these initiatives will drive in some very fundamental change in the education. In addition to these there is a lot more happening, which I shall cover in subsequent articles. The fact is the Web’s infrastructure is built, the platforms have emerged, everyone is connected on social networks and open education resources are available everywhere; we now need to connect the dots and create a meaningful digital learning eco system in a way that augurs well with the digital life style of today’s learner.
About Tarun Mitra
I’m the person you want to contact for all things EdTech, Tech, Startups, Strategy, Social and Beer. Founder, LurnQ, excited about potential of web in learning and intrigued by digital natives. Perviously Co-Founder Claimat & VP Intl Aptech Ltd.