Our current education system is not fit for purpose. Student mental health is at an all-time low, and student debt is at an all-time high. Dominated by uninspiring curricula and an over-emphasis on short-term knowledge and outdated skills, the entire industry is ripe for disruption.
Better education contributes to better citizens and, ultimately, a better society. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” We need to equip young minds with the skills to create a more exciting future, both for themselves and for the species at large. Above all, we need to make learning more inspiring, relevant and fulfilling.
Several technology-driven trends are disrupting education systems around the world. Together, these trends are offering innovative solutions for a flawed system and contributing to more impactful learning experiences.
1. The Digital Classroom
The internet has exponentially increased our access to information. We are seeing the rise of massive open online courses, also known as MOOCs. Last year, there were 58 million students enrolled in MOOCs with 700 universities across thousands of courses. Many of these courses, including those offered by prestigious universities, are available for free or even with official institutional accreditation.
"Digital learning breaks the physical limitations of the traditional classroom and allows an educator to reach millions of students from around the world at a minimal cost."
Though not yet perfect, these courses are becoming more interactive and project-based. They break the physical limitations of the traditional classroom and allow an educator to reach millions of students from around the world at a minimal cost. Individuals from developing countries can now access and enroll in courses offered by the most prestigious universities in the world.
Even in traditional classrooms, this access to online information has transformed the learning experience. Today’s innovative teaching methods involve blended learning, which includes a mix of classroom learning and online learning. For instance, students will watch online instructional videos at home while classroom time is focused on problem-solving and collaborative activities. This also gives students control over the time, pace, and place of their learning.
2. Global Online Collaboration
Peter Diamandis notes that over the next few years, three to five billion people will gain access to the internet for the very first time. Coupled with a rising number of internet-enabled mobile phones, this trend will further propel digital learning. Even more, it will enable global collaboration between learners.
According to a New Horizons report on education, we are seeing an increasing focus on global online collaboration, where “digital tools are used to support interactions around curricular objectives and promote intercultural understanding.”
As the rising billions arrive on the web, they bring with them their voices and ideas. As they participate in online learning networks, they contribute to the global empathy of our species. For instance, startup Belouga is connecting classrooms across the planet through video conferencing and online chatting. By offering a direct pathway for students to connect globally, social learning networks like this will teach them “culture, teamwork and empathy.” Educators too will be able to develop collaborations and share resources with one another.
3. The Future Workforce
According to a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of children just now beginning school will find themselves working jobs as adults that don't exist today. And according to McKinsey, technology could automate 45 percent of the tasks people are currently paid to do. Jobs requiring higher-order skills, such as creativity, emotional intelligence and analytical thinking are more difficult to automate and are most likely to stick around longer.Educational systems have simply not kept pace with the changing nature of the workforce and need for 21st-century skills. So how do we prepare our students for the future?
"The evolving workforce and continuous emergence of novel industries means we need to inspire students to become lifelong learners."
Educational systems have simply not kept pace with the changing nature of the workforce and need for 21st-century skills. So how do we prepare our students for the future? According to teachers at Connections Academy, educators need to focus on three core 21st-century skills: complex problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration.
Even more, the evolving workforce and continuous emergence of novel industries means we need to inspire students to become lifelong learners. Learning can no longer be something you only do when you are enrolled in a school for a specific period of time. Instead, it should be an ongoing process of self-development and exploration of new ideas and skills.
4. Virtual and Augmented Reality
Show, not tell has always been a fundamental principle in effective teaching. Virtual and augmented reality are revolutionizing the learning experience. They allow students to take journeys into ancient history, travel across the universe and visit museums in different countries, all without leaving the classroom.
For instance, the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program will allow teachers to take their students on a journey anywhere in the world. Whether it’s “exploring coral reefs or the surface of Mars in an afternoon,” teachers can take students on immersive, virtual field trips.
One the biggest feats of such technologies is that they make the learning experience more engaging, awe-inspiring and transformative. These immersive experiences have the potential to contribute to faster learning, better retention, and improved decision-making.
5. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
Big data offers the opportunity to both evaluate educational programs and provide more valuable learning experiences for students. It can aid researchers in identifying what teaching methods work best both for the masses and for individual students.
Data can be used to improve student results, assess each student’s strengths and weaknesses and create mass-customized programs. Algorithms can analyze student data and consequently make flexible programs that adapt to the learner based on real-time feedback.
One day, they may even aid or replace educators. One Georgia Tech professor used a virtual teaching assistant to chat with students, and some students didn’t even notice the difference.
At the moment, most online courses are still mass-made, but in the future they can be mass-customized. After all, every student is unique in personality, learning style and life path. The education they receive should reflect their individual needs.
The Future of Education
In a world of accelerating change, “disrupt or be disrupted” is the way to stay relevant. We are seeing a surge of education and technology companies that are offering innovative solutions at minimal costs. The traditional educational bodies will have no choice but to adapt and integrate these technologies or fall behind as emerging organizations offer better services.
Ultimately, our education system is a direct reflection of our values as a civilization. What and how we teach future generations will have a powerful impact on the kind of world we live in.
As American educational reformer John Dewey said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow."
Image Credit: Shutterstock