Predicting the future is at best difficult and at worst impossible. Most of us attempt to gather details about the present and extrapolate them to make predictions on what the future might hold. Using the details of education today does not necessarily produce a clear picture of what education is going to look like tomorrow; one thing we can say with relative certainty though, is that technology is driving the changes in education. Of great importance to me now is online education and how it is going to integrate in with the “brick and mortar” buildings that we have been using for so long.
Technology has made some incredible marks on an education system not prone to much change in a very short amount of time. To give you an idea, look at my college experience. When I did my undergrad (2000-2004) I took all of my classes on campus except for one. That one class that I took off campus was a “distance learning” class that I took at another university. Assignments were submitted through the mail (that’s right, the mail…not email). When I had exams for this geology class I had to make an appointment at the public library and submit an approval form for them to proctor me. Fast-forward with me to my master’s degree (2006-2008). For this program, only about 50% of my classes were the classic sit down variety, with the others being online. My latest degree, my educational specialist (2009-2011) was completed 100% online from a university in a different state from where I lived. In the span of 11 years in my life, education had been completely turned upside down by technology.
At this point you are probably thinking that was college, how does it apply to elementary and high school. The answer is that there is a trickle down effect that we are now beginning to experience. The article linked below provides some ideas about the future of online learning from some pretty influential minds in the business. My favorite quote from the article is provided below. It seems to predict a major framework change to education.
Larry Summers, former President of Harvard
“It’s important to remember this really wise quote when thinking about the transition to online education: ‘Things take longer to happen than you think they will and then they happen faster than you think they could.’ If you had a discussion with dentists on tooth decay in 1947 it would have been about brushing your teeth and dental care, but the most important thing to happen with fighting tooth decay was fluoridated water and this is similar. It’s hard to know when it will happen but at some point this will be transformative. The first stage is when it does what was being done before but better. That’s what is happening now. But we’re going to where we don’t need to have two semesters, classes of same length, grading on the basis of things called exams. You can’t think of another industry where a list of top 10 providers is perfectly correlated to what it was in 1960.”
- What did you take away from the article?
- What role do you think online learning will have in the future?
- How much different is education going to look in 30 years?
Though the future of education is not clearly defined, it is fairly clear that technology and online classes will be major players in its evolution. I like to think about the future of education as a bright, but slightly unfocused at this point.