As one of the world’s most prominent philanthropists, Bill Gates is always interesting to listen to when he begins to ruminate on such lofty topics as the “future of education.” And it’s no surprise that this technological pioneer is keen to present new, challenging ideas to the preexisting ones of how we learn. Gates has been fundamental in helping many areas of Africa become Internet adapted, and he sees students, unsurprisingly, using more technology to achieve their academic ambitions in the future.
In a candid interview with CNN Money recently, Gates said that the days of classrooms are numbered, “If you want the very best lectures, if you want the cost efficiency, you have to break down and say, ‘you know, let’s take someone else’s material.’” Online education could potentially mean the best lecturers are available to everyone – in theory. Imagine being privy to top MIT or Oxford academics teaching rural students across the world. He sees a new paradigm of ‘personalized’ education sweeping the world, cutting costs of universities and the problem of classroom congestion.
“With this wave of software that’s being created that personalizes to the student … there’s real promise here that the kids can go back and engage in a way they couldn’t before,” he said.
Gates believes that the traditional model of physical classrooms and the social engagement of learning can, in effect, be created online, and to a much more effective degree. Having just invested a $100m in a new start-up, InBloom, “a service that helps teachers tailor lessons to individual students,” Gates is clearly putting his money behind the idea. And with another CNN story detailing how community college graduates in the U.S. are out-earning their Bachelor degree-holding counterparts (“30% of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce”), clearly it’s time for a re-think.