Critics call Han’s video lessons primitive Whose vs who’s definition and their usefulness questionable. To which Khan replies that solving global problems of education was not part of his plans. But,” he believes, “Khan Academy courses are at the beginning of the first stage of development. About $10 million will be invested in improving training videos every year. Additional exercises and analytics, designed to work with one teacher with 50 or 100 students at a time, are already ready. Very soon, Khan says, Khan Academy specialists will teach better than any paid tutor.
Digital learning materials have limitations: You can’t smell a burnt resistor online or spill a chemical on your hands. But teaching economics through the web-interface, for example, is so popular that the feasibility of building new economic schools and hiring economics teachers is already in doubt. In the project edX, assures Agarwal, a team of a professor and two assistants, teaching 400 students at MIT, today can teach 10,000 people through the web, and tomorrow – hundreds of times more.
Education becomes distributed, gradually.
Percentage of students in the United States who “attend” at least one course online
Where does the online education curve lead to? According to statistics from Babson College, the number of U.S. college students who have completed at least one online course has increased from 1.6 million in 2002 to 6.1 million in 2010, accounting for a third of U.S. college students. Researchers I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman note signs of a decline in the growth rate of online courses. But their analysts do not take into account the involvement of leading universities in the development of education through the Internet. Thus, Coursera, a joint project of Stanford University and two dozen other educational institutions, has reportedly already gathered 1.5 million students-subscribers who are ready to study online second grade games.
And even if only a small percentage of those who really want to be trained, the surge in popularity of courses like MOOC makes you think about the changes that await the world with the active promotion of free, high-quality education through the network. Han’s videos are popular in India, and MOOC statistics show that 60% of their students are initiative people from “knowledge hungry” nations (Brazil, China and others). No one knows for sure what power the push of “high-octane fuel” free online learning can give the “machine” of the education system. Will there be a “revolution” sweeping away any barriers to quality education for all? Will there not be government restrictions on Internet use and censorship of teachers?
The next step in online education will be determined by technology and appropriate methodologies. The online education process for millions of students should be evaluated, recorded, studied, and adjusted as necessary. Talk to Han or any of the people behind your MOOC courses (many of whom come from university departments with a strong interest in computer literate intellectuals). All of them will call the goal not to increase the sales of instructional videos, but to improve the educational system through evidence-based and effective use of data. Just imagine, they say, software that takes full account of a student’s level of knowledge and offers the student an individual, unique curriculum. Will these projects succeed, and will something revolutionary be born of them? If so, the answer to Agarwal’s question is: online learning will be the most important innovation in education over the past 200 years.