Close your eyes and think of the word “school.” You are probably imagining classrooms, buildings, or maybe students seating in class. Is that right? In case you’re wondering how I guessed right, I am not a magician. In fact, if you search Google for the term School, you see something similar. I have appended the result of my search below for reference. In fact, schools have looked this way since it was created more than 150 years ago.
The reality is that while the world has been through several revolutions, education remained mostly unchanged. Education has been consistently built on a series of time blocks (years, semesters or trimesters, months, weeks, days) during which groups of students are provided the same instructional material for part of the day. Like products on a factory line, each learner acquires knowledge in the same way at the same pace with the hope to become a productive member of society. The system is built for efficiency. This mode of education is built on the belief that everyone learns the same way and at the same pace and during the same time of the day. We know that this is not true.
In recent years, the growth of Internet usage has provided an alternative in the form of eLearning. With eLearning, the content can be delivered through multiple formats including video, audio, and text. Additionally, eLearning allows the content to be asynchronous so students can follow different sections at a different pace. In fact, it gives the opportunity to completely move away from the factory-style learning to more competency-style learning. We have seen a growth in the adoption of eLearning in recent years (see the chart below). However, the use of eLearning skyrocketed when COVID-19 put the breaks on the traditional school model in the Spring of 2020. To keep education going, many countries tried various means. Some used Radio to broadcast lectures. Other countries such as Cameroon even use televised shows to continue to deliver lessons to students. A good number of institutions however tried eLearning for the first time.
This mass-taste of eLearning is the beginning of a new era for education. Schools will never operate the same way again. Why do I say that? For one, it offers institutions the ability to increase their profit:
Increased School Capacity: by leveraging the Internet, institutions can reduce the number of courses that require a physical presence on the campus thus increasing the number of students they can admit.
Larger Addressable Market: in today’s schools systems, most learners are required to commute to a physical building. For this reasons, most institutions can only be attended by people who are close by. With an online school, they can reach anyone anywhere with Internet. This increases their market reach.
It also gives parents quite a few benefits including:
Reduced Spending: parents will reduce their spending on items such as transportation and school clothing.
Increased Flexibility: with school being online, learners can take the course from anywhere thus freeing parents up to take vacation and travel with their kids during times other than Spring Break or Summer Vacation. Obviously, this will depend on how the online school is implemented. It is possible though to create asynchronous learning which gives the students this flexibility.
For the students, there are benfits as well:
Personalized Learning: students will have more flexibility on how they learn. They can use a multitude of formats such as videos, audio, text, discussion, zoom meetings, etc. They will aso have flexibility on when they learn. Some might prefer early morning while others prefer late night. They will no longer be constraints to a specific time period in a specific location.
Proficiency-based Learning: online content allows institutions to build programs based on proficiency. In such a system, students learn to become proficient in a specific topic, then move to the next. The pace of learning is adapted to each student’s ability. In this type of system, fast learners can move quicker while slower learners are no longer forced to keep up. They can slow down for the topics they have the challenge to make sure they become proficient. These are some of the reasons, I believe that we are at the start of a transformation of our education systems.
Imagine the following: you wake up at 5:30AM for your morning run. As you run, you put on your headphone and listen to a chapter of the book on success by “Jack Canfield.” Once you return and shower, you pickup your phone, log into your virtual classroom and record a video of you giving a summary of what you just learned. While the AI bot analyses your video submission, you go grab a breakfast. Right after breakfast, you get message from the AI telling you that you did well on your summary and the next module is now unlocked. You open the next module and it’s a timed-quiz to validate that you have acquired the knowledge. You start the quiz, hold your phone up while the AI scans your face, then you start answering the questions it asks you. Once you’re done, the AI gives you a B+ score and marks that competency done. For the next competency, the AI tells you that you will need to build a team of students nearby to work with. It gives you a few people who are at the same level and also needing to form a team for you to pick from. You’re not ready to start so you shut it down to pick it up later.
This might sound futuristic, but it’s not that far from what’s possible today. At TekZone, we have built courses such as our Python for Beginners course that allow the student to learn at their own pace regardless of where they are, take quizzes to confirm what they’ve learned and unlock more modules as they go. They can do this from the comfort of their home or on the go, from their PC or their phone. They can even download it to their phones and do it without Internet connection. The only missing piece is the AI component but it’s not too far.
Like any change, it’s uncomfortable. We are used to our factory-style system. it’s predictable and safe. But that’s precisely why it’s no longer right for today and tomorrow’s world where we being social means using Facebook, Tik Tok or Twitter, and where technology is changing what we do and the way we work. A school system created 150 years ago is no longer right for a world with AI.
So what should you do? Educate yourself. If you have not yet, try to leverage online learning. You can do so from TekZone Academy or from any other platform such as Udemy or Udacity. If you have kids, introduce them to platforms such as Khan Academy or ABS Mouse. Soon, those will be the norm.