Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The return of the online education buzz

There were two recent news articles that I came across thanks to posts by others in my professional network. One article was titled Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education and talks about what leading lights in the world of technology and education had to say about the future of education. The report talks about what these individuals think about the future of education. They all concur that it is going to be transformed over the next several years thanks to the Internet and the latest and greatest in technology. 

The other article is titled, Venture Capital's massive terrible idea for the future of college and discusses the dangers of attempting to take short cuts in education. 

Over a decade ago, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco had said then that online education is going to transform education and that it was the next big thing. Now the hype seems to have re-surfaced except that the claim is that "this time its for real". Both these articles provide a very interesting, yet, opposing views on the topic.  

No matter which way the traditional education goes, there is little doubt that the Internet and associated technologies have proven to be a great avenue for online training. By this I mean, an easy and convenient way to provide learners with job skills related training. Any company or organization that has training to be delivered would be foolish not to explore online options. As someone who has been in this business for over a decade we have seen amazing applications of online training across a plethora of industries, ranging from restaurants training cooks, to lawyers training other lawyers, to healthcare professionals training to stay current, to software tools related training, to training childcare professionals, to just name a few. 

The success of these applications of online training, at some level seems to have been extrapolated to the idea of school/college education much to the disdain of traditional educators. Personally, I think the answer lies somewhere in between. While it would be a huge stretch to dole out degrees on par with traditional college degrees for those taking exclusively online courses, a combination of in-person and online classes does make a lot of sense in this day and age. Courses that are closer to job skills can certainly be taught online and supplemented with face-to-face classes, especially if the eventual hiring companies are open to the idea. 

To completely disregard the impact of new and emerging technologies and the Internet, and to insist that traditional brick and mortar education is the one and only way to be educated would be a huge mistake. On the other hand, overselling the impact of these technologies and pooh-poohing traditional time tested models of education might suit the venture capital industry and their end-game but it is likely have damaging effects on a generation that seems to already prefer 140-word updates over traditional reading habits.