The Revolution Which is Going to Sweep the Education Industry
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Almost every industry known to mankind has already been radically disrupted or transformed, thanks to technology. But for the most part, education has remained undisturbed and is hence, in my opinion, ripe for a major disruption. Let me then ask — is it possible that the generations of tomorrow won’t have teachers teaching them like we had?
Consider that the last 2 centuries belonged to ‘mass’. Mass production, mass communication and mass distribution. Even mass education. Universities have had thousands of students with one teacher teaching over 500 at a time! The focus was on cost reduction based on massive numbers.
Penetration of Internet
Today, however, the Internet and digital technologies are making sweeping changes, with ‘personalised content’ becoming a buzzword of sorts. Like Netflix that has been using Machine Learning algorithms to produce content — movies, dramas, documentaries — personalised to your tastes and viewing preferences. You can doze off in the middle of a binge-watching session and start from the same point you left it at. For Netflix, and brands like Amazon and Spotify, personalised content is providing a clear competitive edge over others.
Personalised Education is the Need of the Hour
So, is it not obvious that education too would need to be personalised? This has many moving parts. Who would teach or importantly, how would students learn? How will learning be personalised to each student? Will this merely reduce costs or enhance the overall quality of learning? Will students need to come to a physical campus? Can soft skills and human skills, like empathy, be taught and learnt in this fashion? What about creative and critical thinking skills?
My goal is not to expound on each but to give a sense of where, in my view, education is moving. It is clear that there is a lot to think about, but in my opinion, our first step should be to recognise that the current system is inefficient. It may appear that when somebody teaches you, it is rather simple to learn. But consider a classroom of students with different learning styles, aptitudes and personalities. Some might be able to grasp concepts faster than the others. The teacher cannot personalise the learning to each student. But with online learning tools and digital content, it is now possible to learn at your own pace. There is excellent quality content — engaging and in bite sizes — that is available online today. Learning could be followed by evaluation tools — like a quiz — to determine if the material has been adequately understood. If the student gets distracted or zones out — pause and repeat. It’s that simple.
The Role of Analytics and Study Groups
Sophisticated learning analytics software are available to keep track of each student’s learning style and progress, and this could further personalise the mentoring or content. Study groups, either physical or virtual, could include the all-important student-human interactions. So, a combination of self-learning and study groups could cover the technical material very efficiently and in a personalised way. Students can decide when to study, how to study and the pace of learning.
Where possible, a classroom discussion could follow to focus on critical thinking, communication, peer learning and group activities. No powerpoints or lectures! The teacher could use the Socratic method of teaching – that is, ask questions as students would have already reviewed and understood the material in advance. The end result is students who are happier, more engaged with more solid learning outcomes.
New technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Deep Learning and Internet of Things (IoT) will add new dimensions to the learning experience, providing new opportunities to entrepreneurs. They could author new content, develop user interfaces, leverage learning analytics or develop VR-driven learning tools. One thing I am certain about — education, as we know it, will change to a great extent. There will be several new ways to deliver it — it could be entirely online, hybrid or campus-style. Classrooms layouts too would transform to make way for fun and collaborative learning. Not too far in the distant future (say in a decade or so), Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) would enable a learner to be far more intelligent and productive with the addition of a silicon chip.
We really don’t know if this is good or bad news. Only time will tell!