An interesting article appeared in the BBC Future section recently, detailing the increasing move of universities and other academic institutions to provide their curriculum online. The power of the Internet to collate and communicate information is no longer a novel idea, but when top universities like MIT, Stanford and Harvard offer online versions of their educational platforms it becomes a very interesting notion indeed.
But, is this the way of the future – virtual lectures, online tests, degrees without ‘real’ collaboration or interaction? It will most likely be a hybrid, and one that will obviously benefit those in the lower income strata. This is potentially a great opportunity to educate huge amounts of people relying only on a broadband connection. It’s fantastic to think of, really. One digital expert, Clay Shirky, was quoted in the piece, “The possibility MOOCs (massively open online courses) hold out isn’t replacement.” Rather, it’s that “education can be unbundled.” ‘Much like many other fields – from broadcasting and newspapers to games and shopping – technology promises not so much to replace older institutions as to break up the packages they once offered, providing particular parts of them at a scale and cost unmatchable by the old order.’
As for the ‘human cost’ of this tech advance, it really comes down to an individual’s or community’s ability to first have access to the information and this is where technology must be affordable and available. The ability to learn comes from the most essential ingredient, and that is desire. No machine can replace that impulse, but only facilitate the action of intellectual growth. Democratized media is still in its infancy, but there are amazing things ahead and they’re coming quickly.