Disrupting education

By Ondi Timoner , written on July 29, 2013

From The News Desk

My attraction to documenting what might be the greatest revolution in the history of mankind -- of which we are witnessing just the beginning right now -- manifests itself as a tingling sensation when I see archaic and even abusive systems topple in the face of the power of man-machine symbiosis. That is, the connection between technology and human innovation. Taking on the documentation of this unraveling is certainly overwhelming, as it reaches  into every aspect of our lives -- in how we administer healthcare, explore love, catalyze political change, share media, create entertainment, and transform transportation.

However, one of the most exciting areas of disruption is occurring in the field of education. If you’re a parent or a teacher, you're certainly painfully aware that the agrarian education system of cannot compete with the iPad, mainly because of the ability that games have to track the progress of the user and present them with new challenges and rewards, sustaining the user's attention and interest. This isn't just a problem in K-12. Community colleges, with their limited funding and overburdened teachers, can't provide the attention to detail and personalization that an online course can for a myriad of reasons. First, they aren't tailored to the student. Secondly, they dictate to the student when and where to learn -- and often there aren't even enough seats for the demand.

That’s where MOOCS or massive open online courses come into the picture. MOOCS are online courses that offer an interactive and participatory experience  not to mention open access to anyone with an Internet connection. Millions of people worldwide are enrolling in online courses across a variety of platforms, the likes of Udacity, Udemy, Khan Academy, and Coursera. Time magazine's Amanda Ripley has proclaimed free MOOCS open the doors for "the Ivy League for the masses." Once MOOCs achieve the ability to give accreditation for completed courses, the disruption of education through technology will transform our entire economy.

At A TOTAL DISRUPTION, we will create a series on the Disruption of Education to track the innovation happening across all aspects of the field, and the pushback from the established vendors. Here's a taste, featuring 20 Million Minds Foundation's Dean Florez and Dr. Gary Michaelson, Blackboard's Michael Chasen, MIT Media Lab's Joichi Ito, and even Tony Hsieh and Jack Dorsey talking about their personal frustration with the traditional education environment:

Currently, one in four students fails to complete post-secondary education, and among those students, 60 percent cite the cost of “textbooks and fees beyond tuition” as a factor in their decision to withdraw. Between 1986 and 2004, textbook prices rose 186 percent in the United States, double the rate of inflation. The average student is paying $600-700 per year for these heavy, static blocks of information -- much of which is outdated by the time it's published.  Increases in textbook prices have significantly outpaced median household income, making it more likely that some students will forego or delay attending college. It is so bad that at community colleges, textbooks comprise up to 75 percent of the total cost of school for students. Five conglomerates control 80 percent of textbook production in the US, but with education transformed, we could see textbooks become available online for free, providing equal access to anyone from the United States to Pakistan.

Education should not benefit solely the able or wealthy, and with these disruptions, we can open avenues for innovation in every arena and in every country around the world. If there is an innovative platform that is impacting your ability to learn, please share your thoughts with us below!