Sunday, February 3, 2013

Online Education Changing the World

Last week, at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, there was an engaging discussion entitled ‘ Online Education Changing the World’.

The session was moderated by Thomas Friedman, and the speakers included Larry Summers (former Harvard President), Bill Gates, Peter Theil (Founder’s Fund), Rafael Reif (MIT President), Sebastian Thrun (Udacity), Daphne Koller (Coursera), and a 12-year-old Pakistani girl, Khadija Niaza who has been taking MOOCs. (Massive Open Online Course)

The video recording runs for 68 minutes and is pretty compelling.

Highlights for me included:
  • Friedman’s interview with 12-year old Khadijah Niazi, which illustrated how revolutionary and far-reaching the open education movement can be (the first 15 minutes or so);
  • the Larry Summer’s quote (borrowed from Rudi Dornbusch) that “things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you think they could” (applied to online learning) (24:30); which reminds me of the Hemingway quote from The Sun Also Rises: "How did you go bankrupt? "Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly" 
  • the comments from Peter Theil about why students are not getting value for money in education and how this is serving to drive the disruption in higher education (from 30:33 to 35:00); and
  • the remarks made by Bill Gates about peer-to-peer interaction and why online learning is working now when it hasn’t in the past (40:50), and the question of the ‘credential’ (41:45 to 42:05) and how, in the past, it was where you went and how long you spent there, compared with now where it is about proof you have the knowledge, independent of how you acquired it.
For me, the questions that arise from watching the video are: How do we ensure that that we're not perfecting the teaching methods of the '60s, but advancing the profession to the 21st Century? How do we enusure our future as an educational institution? Will we  gradually and then suddenly change and advance?  Or, will we gradually change and suddenly go bankrupt?

Video of the entire panel discussion at Davos:

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