A lot of sectors are currently undergoing technological disruption all over the world especially health, engineering and space, but the education sector does not often get the same echo about the transformations it is undergoing.
Last month, I sat in with the Genopen team as they tried to answer the question, “With all the existing innovations including technology that has not yet been created or perfected, what would education look like five, ten or more years from now?”
There is growing sentiment of how the high school and university curriculum is impractical and completely dissociated from the students’ career path or how slow education institutions are to adapt to the ever changing trends and demands of the global economy.
There is some truth in this, no doubt but this does not mean institutional education isn’t important. The problem is the high number of graduates who finish school but cannot apply what they have learned or in most cases chose options that are not as quick to land jobs as others.
This doesn’t mean the system is useless, it just means you were not prepared for the challenges you faced. The good news is online education platforms have simplified access to education and skills.
You can learn or level up easily through affordable websites like Alison, EdX, Coursera or Udacity and receive a certificate – or if you don’t care for the verified certificate you can access free lessons out in the open through YouTube, Khan Academy, blogs, MOOCs etc.
With all the existing innovations or the technology that has not been yet created or perfected, what would education look like five, ten or more years from now?
In the next few years, education will undergo some major disruptive transformations that may even see a major reduction in time spent learning and content delivery. Let us explore what these could look like:
3D Visual content. You are probably familiar with 3D movies, a similar concept might be applied to educational content through 3D videos and animations. Picture a History lesson showing the battle for American independence or a Geography lesson dissecting earth’s crust or showing volcanic activity.
You would be able to see in detail these concepts. Access and creation of 3D content is not as far from reach as you may think, we are even seeing great strides to eradicate the need for 3D glasses to consume.
AR and VR. If visual technologies were celebrities, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) would be as popular as the Kardashians. Imagine more than 40 kids in a well-spaced classroom wearing Google, Samsung or HTC VR glasses watching and interacting with content like the one above controlled and narrated by their teacher. As the teacher talks about the Himalayas, he flicks a button and voila, they are seeing the mountains and have the ability to zoom in closer, rotate or learn more.
This is not only a high school application, but think of medical students at university studying the anatomy of the human body, neurology or physics or mechanical students pulling apart an engine and building it back together all while simply wearing VR goggles, motion sensor gloves and listening to their instructor almost the way military pilots undergo simulations at an Airforce base.
Google has already experimented with something similar in some classrooms in the US by funding a few test projects, VR headsets inclusive. Microsoft has an interesting project called HoloLens where they are building mixed reality tech that can let you design and interact with 3D and virtual reality using the world around you.
Global access to education through the web. The internet has the potential to bridge the literacy gap since it allows the same information to be accessed all over the world. You could learn anything and be anything you want to be, all you need is an internet connection, a desktop or smartphone and you connect through a browser or app.
This already exists, the apps are a little buggy and the certificates are still a bit pricey which is still casting out access for some in Asia and Africa, but it is a beginning.
Soon you will be able to get on demand qualifications for only the specific job you want to apply for from any university (Harvard, Stanford, etc); company (Google, Udacity, IBM, Microsoft) or profession you want in the world at a monthly or affordable fee. You will be able to follow a career path guided by an AI or preset algorithm.
The time to always invest or experiment with innovation is always now, not later.
Whereas Mozilla has gone to change its plans towards initiatives like these, Genopen still carries out numerous projects to further objectives like these on a combined minimal self-funded and small donated budget. They are now exploring how they can empower the often forgotten kids in rural areas with limited internet and device access as well as how to bring technology and innovation to education in developing countries.
The downside is more and more education content is going to be video and graphic intensive, this will be a huge challenge to scale in areas with limited internet access.
Gamifying the process. There is also going to be a lot of companies that use a gaming process to impart particular skills. This might prove very effective because games stimulate a lot of sectors in our minds as well as keep us focused and addicted. We want to compete and win, so we put our effort in to learn and memorise to earn points and dominate that leaderboard. Already apps like Duolingo (language) and Memrise (knowledge trivia) are doing this and it is mostly effective according to reports.
Career centered. Some syllabi have already been adjusted to match the careers we wish to take on when we finish school, however there is always a tidbit of that general part of the curriculum. That is why, small new micro degrees and masters such as nanodegrees that train students for a shorter period of months say 3 – 8 months in specifically what they intend to do as such as Engineering self-driving cars have propped up. Courses like these are already available through platforms like Udacity in partnership with industry leaders such as Uber, IBM and Google.
Despite all these changes, I think going to school might not be replaced entirely yet for several reasons, but the most important being networking, reasoning and psychological development. I am aware that these online education platforms emphasize and reward individuals for participation in forums, but it is not the same as the bond students share throughout high school and university which turns out to be very helpful in their career growth and personal life.
So, for now we need to work with schools to complement or change their mode of instruction so that they include or test with some of the technologies above and over time adapt what works for their students rather than doing away with the institutions entirely. It is very essential to avoid ending up with what happened in the 90’s, as companies transitioned to using computers to replace paperwork, most employees were not versed or up to the task to with how to use them.
Many were laid off, some slowed down the revenue growth of the companies as they were slow adapters and others were quick to learn, but this still cost the companies which paid for their training.
The time to always invest or experiment with innovation is always now, not later. I leave you with this to contemplate about, what do you think education will be like in the future and how do you think it will impact our lives?