Higher education is standing at a crossroad. Flipped classrooms and MOOC’s (massive open online courses) have become a disruptive force. Also the rise of Youtube education can’t be neglected. It’s creating challenges and opportunities at the same time.
Whether you are a teacher or student, YouTube lets you discover, create, and share videos. Educational and instructional videos are some of the most popular videos on YouTube. Therefore Youtube created Youtube EDU* to find short lessons to supplement your in-school learning, watch full courses from the world’s leading universities, professional development material from fellow educators, and inspiring videos from all over the world. In 2007 a major event unfolded: Khan Academy. How Sal Khan started it on YouTube is now legendary. Students would watch lecture videos before coming to the classroom, where they would get one-on-one interaction with teachers while doing homework. By the count of the number of students who have listened to an instructor’s voice, Khan is probably the most heard teacher in history. Online learning is a big part of everyday learning, in- and outside schools. Common across all the different online learning possibilities are these features:
– open content consumption;
– lecture videos with quizzes and student discussion forums;
– very large numbers of enrolled students (often tens of thousands per course);
– very low completion rates (often 1-3% truly qualify as finishing a course).
So we have to ask ourselves: ‘what is the goal we targeting?’ If the goal is to replace traditional face-to-face learning and teaching, we are bound to fail. If the goal is to give extra options of learning to the youth, next to the exciting options and playing Mindcraft, we have the opportunity to succeed. There is no consensus on what the goal must be or what exactly can be achieved. That future lies, to a certained degree, in our hands.
I distinguish two generations in online learning. Those who are technologically literated (born after 1982) and those who are not (born before 1982). The contemporary and future learning environment asks for active participation, immediate responses and feedback, social interaction, teamwork, structure, engaging visual aids and learning about things that matter. YouTube can be used as a tool to increase student engagement in learning through the use of discussions on videos and by showing real world examples of theoretical concepts. We did not arrive at the current mode of teaching and learning in just one year. It took decades for it to stabilize. And it will take at least many years beyond 2015 for something new to become mature in how we teach and how we learn.
There will be more dead-ends and false starts along the path of this trend than there is patience and goodwill across the diverse sectors in society. Different participants in this ongoing development have different expectations. Some expectations have now become so great that disappointment is almost inevitable, leaving bad taste in the mouth in future generations. This can be seen as similar to the ‘dot com bubble’ and the ‘tulip mania’). And yet a ‘worst-case mentality’ is no reason to hold us back and watch the game from the bench.
opportunities and challenges
The variety of online learning possibilities, Youtube EDU, MOOC platforms, and the inevitable implications of flipping the classroom, has presented remarkable opportunities to redraw the boundaries of education. There is also no shortage of challenges. I hope the list of 6 main questions below highlights both a beautiful picture that is attractive and some obstacles and uncertainties along the path.
Who can access education? For centuries, higher education institutions has started with a set of students who dare to apply. And that set grew dramatically several times over the past century. Can these institutions revisit the mission now, to consider it as the search for talents around the world who should apply? With high quality education being made widely accessible through technology we are standing at a major wave of educational democratization.
Can (higher) education become more affordable? The campus offers a bit of branding and a social network but what are the institutions offering to his students through education? Society, parents and students want clear answers.
What is the role of the classroom? Should class be reserved only for two-way interactions, like what many schools have been doing, as one-way, open-loop, behind-auditorium-door lecturing moves onto YouTube and MOOC? Will the effect of online education be that teachers pay more attention to every word they utter and record for the world to hear?
How can online learning assess and authenticate students? Maybe education can be free, but must authentication be done with test centers and staff is not. There are at least four variations of student assessment:
It is difficult to use the first three types of assessments for certain subjects, yet the last type is not scalable. Regarding student authentication, there are already profitable companies selling Coursera certificates for a fee, and they have ‘solutions’ to defeat the recently announced biometric authentication tests. Furthermore, what kind of certificate should be given?
How can we rate, recommend, and assign credentials to courses? Is there consistency of quality control from one semester to another and over different courses of different institutions? This is the mirror image of the student-assessment challenge above. How do students, parents, and employers know what a course has taught? What does an 9.5 (or an A) mean for one course relative to a 8.0 (or B+) from another?
How can online learning scale up and engage students? How big can effective social learning become, if there is an inevitable tradeoff between the enrollment size and the effectiveness of individual learning?can we make it easier for students to finish a course? Are students actually paying enough attention in asynchronized learning? Can we create personalized instruction and an adaptive online environment to higher the success rate. Can textbooks of the future learn each reader’s learning preference from data collected thus far, and adapt both the content and layout of the next chapters?
Many of the above challenges come from the fact that online learning, like Youtube Education and MOOC, is intrinsically asynchronous and heterogeneous. There is no common timetable, no common daily schedule, no common location, no common education goals, and no common background among the diverse demographics in online learning.
* = What is the difference between YouTube EDU, YouTube for Schools, and YouTube.com/teachers?
YouTube EDU is YouTube’s corpus of 700k+ high quality educational videos from partners like Khan Academy, Stanford and TED-Ed. YouTube created two programs to help schools and teachers utilize YouTube EDU most effectively: YouTube for Schools and YouTube for Teachers.
– YouTube for Teachers: provides tips & tricks for bringing YouTube into the classroom and organizes YouTube EDU videos to align with common core subjects;
– YouTube for Schools: allows schools to access all of the YouTube EDU content while limiting access to non-educational content.