from KurzweilAI Website
Every seasoned supporter of self-directed education has faced questions like this.
If you havenít yet, you will. Trust me.
People often have a hard time understanding how certain elements of education can flourish outside of classrooms. Homeschoolers and unschoolers have found creative solutions - cooperative classes for varying subjects, speech and debate leagues, field trip groups - that decentralize and expand the learning experience.
But what about higher education? Can all the benefits that society associates with traditional higher education be provided and even exceeded with non-traditional methods?
The purpose of this post is to look at how startups are doing just that.
UnCollege has written posts with an in-depth look at specific startups, such as Udacity, but here weíre going to take a high-level approach and see how the startup community is providing benefits that traditional higher education institutions claim to have a monopoly on.
Weíll do this by focusing on their solutions for content delivery, social interaction, professional feedback, and certification.
Institutionalized-ed says that students should learn in a way that allows them to successfully regurgitate information via testing and exams. Decentralized education says let the student learn in a way that allows them to master the information, not just regurgitate it..
The content is the part of the university that has become most decentralized - it started more than 10 years ago with MITís OpenCourseWare and has continued from there.
While the content exists, one problem that hasnít yet been solved is curation - when exploring the Internet, how do you find learning content?
And more importantly, what is good and true?
Itís easy to see that startups actually have the potential to connect students to a much wider network than is available on campus.
Students are able to communicate with other students and teachers all around the world, and can also access face-to-face groups using meetup.com. However, this space is still very young.
I envision a day where you can pull out your iPhone, open an app, and walk down to your local coffee shop for a class discussion.
How can students evaluate their knowledge?
In reality, the feedback loop in non-traditional courses tends to be much shorter and more meaningful than a traditional grading system.
Students are able to keep a much closer track of their progress, and the feedback is generally more effective. Correction from a native speaker is far more beneficial than an A to F grade on a language exam. Review from multiple sources is much more beneficial than a grade from one instructor.
One problem in the feedback system that has not been addressed is the role of mentoring and coaching traditionally provided by a teacher.. Companies like Clarity.fm are starting to work towards a solution on this but are a long ways from ubiquity.
This is a big one.
Most people would argue that taking online courses that donít confer college credit is not a very smart move. After all, credits lead to degrees. All employers are looking for degrees, right?
That discussion is for another time, but startups are providing records and certifications in a variety of ways.
All these certifications can be compiled into an online or hard copy portfolio. This portfolio can function as your education transcript for personal use or to provide to future employers.
Alternatively, it is also possible to take free courses and then take an exam to receive college credit in those subjects.