“If you take this course, your life will never be the same.”
Those are the words of Professor Lewin; the world’s most popular professor. The video lectures for his courses have more than 11 million views on YouTube. Bill Gates has watched all his lectures more than once. The New York Times has dubbed him a “web star”. He risks life and limb in demonstrations that leave a life-long impression on his students.
Professor Lewin’s Electricity and Magnetism course will start February 18th. It will be available online (for free) from a new organization called edX. Their objective is to offer high quality courses from the best professors at the best universities. They want to educate 1 billion people worldwide by 2023.
We are at the dawn of a sea change in education. Teachers and students of the future will benefit tremendously from the foundation that is being created today. There is evidence of this already. Anant Argawal, professor and president at edX, shares a story about the first course:
“We had four teaching assistants, and my initial plan was that they would spend a lot of time on the discussion forum, answering questions. One night in the early days, I was on the forum at 2 a.m. when I saw a student ask a question, and I was typing my answer when I discovered that another student had typed an answer before I could. It was in the right direction, but not quite there, so I thought I could modify it, but then some other student jumped in with the right answer. It was fascinating to see how quickly students were helping each other. All we had to do was go in and say that it was a good answer. I actually instructed the T.A.’s not to answer so quickly, to let students work for an hour or two, and by and large they find the answers.”
How people learn is changing. Barriers that existed for many years are being removed. Top notch educational content from the world’s best educators is being freely offered online. Students are collaborating in new ways with each other and with their teachers.
What is the future of education?
Do you think you’ll be able to get the same enrichment from virtual education as you would by spending 4 years at a university? Will organizations like edX be able to handle with the world’s appetite for learning? Have you gone online with the specific purpose of learning?
I’m looking forward to reading the answers to these questions (or just your thoughts on education technology) in the comments.
Update, 1/29/13: A big round of applause and thank you to everyone that commented. I learned a lot about what people think about virtual education. A common theme is the idea you can supplement the traditional college experience with virtual education. Online courses have the potential to reach lifelong learners of all ages. This could be a major success story for anyone with a passion for learning.
Update, 2/18/13: The Electricity & Magnetism starts today!
Photo by Flickr user MIT Physics Demos