The 21st century is witnessing the rise of online education. But where is it heading? This article will examine how technology is informing today’s education system and its growing influence across the world.
It is obvious that traditional educational practices are being superseded by more streamlined and easier-to-access options. Over the past five years several organizations whose sole focus is online education have come into being. Some of these organizations, such as edX, Udacity and The Khan Academy are already impacting school systems across the west, and their influence is even beginning to be felt in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.
The Khan Academy, for example, has adopted a motto to provide high-quality free education to the world. Udacity and edX (a joint Harvard and MIT initiative) have similar goals to provide education of the highest calibre for little or no cost. Although public schools are free, they require an ever increasing amount of local and state taxes to exist. Combined with federal regulations, greater pressure is being put on teachers, administrators and other staff to streamline performance while at the same time receiving lower and lower pay. Differences between school districts can have a significant impact on the quality of education received by the students that attend them.
The effects of online education from the aforementioned groups, and others like them, will be far-reaching in other ways as well. Young families looking to purchase a new home often examine the quality of nearby school districts before committing to purchase. If their children are attending online courses rather than going to an actual school then it will affect their purchasing decisions and impact the economy of certain districts and towns.
But perhaps the greatest impact will be on those other organizations which paved the way for online education and who have historically charged fees equal to, or sometimes in excess of, those charged by conventional community colleges. With the growing success of places like The Khan Institute the entire focus of online education will shift from that of a potential profit maker to a more student-centered outlook. Already some for-profit online schools are struggling to keep up. The University of Phoenix, one of the early trailblazers, has seen a significant decline in attendance, arguably due to the success of Udacity and other related groups, each of which were started by Universities.
The future of online education is not set in stone, but the internet itself has changed the entire world, furthering the growing view among younger generations that information in all areas and in all forms should be free. Educational groups, corporate interests and technology firms will need to keep up with this trend, or will find it very difficult to succeed in carving out their own niche in the world of online education.
The impact of the aforementioned groups will also directly influence the use and popularity of certain types of technology. Tablets and other mobile devices will become the norm and are expected to supersede the conventional home computer within fifteen years' time.
Online education certainly has a bright future. It is quite likely that one or two generations from now school aged children will never step into an actual classroom or wonder how to get into Harvard. While this may seem unnerving to some, the reduction in education costs and greater flexibility will help guide and intellectually advance future generations … No wonder some call it the democratization of education.