In a recent exchange on the platform, player Adel, a field tech based out of UCSF Parnassus makes an interesting point about alternative possible learning systems.
At its root, this gets at topics that have stirred quite a bit of debate in recent months. At the most basic level, the question remains: “How much will the surge of new learning tools impact universities as we know them?” However, for those engaged in the conversation, it can a bit surprising to realize that the explosion in interest in this topic has really only taken hold over the last 24 months.
Exactly two years ago, 100K+ learners around the world were just starting the first true Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), a class in Artificial Intelligence offered by Stanford and taught by rockstar professors Sebastian Thrun and Perter Norvig. Even at that early stage, individual students were already beginning to bring in additional innovations – forming Meetup Groups to replicate the peer interaction of traditional classrooms, for example.
That first class led directly to to creation of the Udacity, Coursera and EdX platforms, and early experiments in general were successful enough that they have been at the very center of subsequent conversations about the future of universities. However, that may soon change.
As California and other states have begun to formally integrate these new players into existing higher education models, a number of critics have rightly begun to point out the limitation to open learning systems. However, the power of scalable learning platforms is not centered on new approaches to traditional higher ed functions. Instead, the offer the opportunity to rethink both the means and the ends of institutionalized learning.
Along these line, it is interesting to look at the “what if…?” projects already underway. For example:
- What if a tuition-free online university was available to anyone on the planet? – This is the ambitious objective of the folks at University of the People.
- What if sophisticated and affordable digital simulations could allow students to directly experience everything from protein folding to historical events? – Our experience with IFTF’s new Oculus Rift over the last few days hints that things along these lines are likely to emerge within a matter of months.
- What if modules were offered as a la carte options for learners interested in targeted training for employability? – Dev Bootcamp’s 9-week program is intensive enough that they use an on-staff therapist to help learners cope with the experience, but average salary of graduates is around $80K. How far beyond coding could this kind of model be extended?
Indeed, over the next few years, the number of new possibilities will continue to expand dramatically. So, how will these kinds of tools redefine health sciences education?