“The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you… the people” – Bane
That opportunity? Education.
Welcome to the education revolution. Never before have the general public had so much access to educational content. Before the Internet, libraries where the norm for self-starters looking for more. The internet is now the new library. And more. With a device and access to the internet, anyone can take advantage of all resources from Online courses, YouTube, Podcasts and informational blogs. To note, a lot of these will not be traditional curriculum education. More so a smattering of ideas, though potentially applicable to users’ own personal situations.
Free resources are abundant and often great quality. Hell even if you’re an internet pirate you’ll be able to easily find plenty of paid content for not much trouble at all.
I hate the idea that education is a children’s game. How often I’ve heard “Finally finished Uni/High School, never studying again”. And I know it’s often in jest. But it makes me kind of sad. I love learning new things and opening new doors to topics I had no clue of previously. And I’m acutely aware that not everyone feels that way about study and education. But in my personal opinion and experience, lifelong learning and education have been a key pillar in my happiness.
Progression of Education Methods
Education methods have always progressed with technology. In 1728, Caleb Phillips placed an ad in the Boston Gazette seeking students for weekly mailed lessons. Radio has been used by schools and colleges to teach their students. And now the internet has opened entire online courses, ready to be taken from any place around the world with an internet connection.
In 2014, over 80% of the total population in North America had received tertiary education. In East Asia and the Pacific, it was under half of that at 36%. South Asia only had 1 in 5. Sub Saharan Africa? 8.5%.
My bet (and hope) is on the idea of education shifting from brick and mortar institutions offering a piece of paper, to an online course offering a PDF. I’m not saying that traditional universities are going to die out or are multitudes worse. The people you meet and experiences you’ll gain are second to none. I just believe that there will be many people who can access the internet from poorer backgrounds, yet cannot afford to attend traditional campuses. This is where online education will explode in popularity.
The Abundance of Choice
It’s common to feel overwhelmed trying to find the very best resource in a sea of options. I’d argue though it’s not as important as you think it is. Similar vein to my note-taking post, but doing is the most powerful act. There’s no point wasting all available time searching for the best option. When you could have already spent those precious few hours starting to learn your project already. Sure you still need something worthwhile. I’ll 100% agree on that point. But surely through a 30-minute google search and browsing Reddit you could find a decent option.
My writing style is similar. I could prepare for 30 minutes gathering notes, thinking about what I should write and preparing myself. Or I could just put pen to paper like I am now. It’s 5 am when I write this. Very rusty before editing, but at least it’s getting done.
Think of the gym. I’d much rather just go in and do a less than optimal workout. Rather than plan meticulously and prepare down to the last minute before losing motivation or an unexpected commitment popping up. Just get it done. Start learning that course. Start that book on google docs. You can do it!
Traditional – Semi Traditional – Non Traditional
I’d define traditional as any type of education done in person. University classes, workshops, and programs. These I think will be disrupted the most. The costs of these compared to new options are just multitudes higher. The actual dollar cost. Plus the cost of travel time. Even the quality of education I think is lower. Traditional methods aren’t all doom and gloom however. I highly rate them in the sense that if I’ve sacrificed so much to make the class, I’m gonna commit 100%. Distractions and getting sidetracked isn’t as common a factor for me compared to other education methods.
Semi-traditional encompasses types of online courses or those structured in a way that a student can follow through. When you study online, you have access to some of the greatest teachers worldwide. An example would be the CS50 class offered by Harvard. I could watch that from my own home, with no distractions and time lost travelling. I can’t think of anything better. An example would be a MOOC. A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course which is essentially a web-based class that supports a large number of students. Typically involves some lecture-type videos and maybe a couple of tests or assignments to be completed.
No course as such, but still an education. Think Podcasts or high-quality blogs. Whilst there’s no course structure or designated course content, you’d be wild to assume there’s nothing to learn from them. Some of the most important things I’ve learned from podcasts and the like. Howard Marks podcast interviews on Masters in Business have taught me a boatload and helped me find out about his books. Listening to those podcasts are probably the best investment I have ever made and I’m so glad I did so. I’ve probably listened to those podcasts repeatedly at least 4-5 times already.
So your college class is amazing. From the professor, the course content, assessments offered and education gained. How do you expand? Let’s say you have a class of 30 one day a week, the professor could maybe take on five days per week. With the possibility of a reduction in teaching quality. So now you have 150 students enrolled in the class.
So now you hire two more professors to teach daily. Again, the possibility of a decrease (to be fair an increase is also a chance). 450 students now enrolled.
But at what point do you have to invest serious amounts in new buildings or infrastructure? If you could teach a couple of thousand students internally I’d argue that’s a raging success.
In an online class, a couple of thousand students would be a breeze. You could increase that 10 fold without too much hassle. The constraints on access to digital learning are multitudes lower than physical classes. Scalability has been the buzzword within tech, but probably for a pretty good reason. I believe the scalability of online education will be a huge factor in the future.
Access to Teachers
Everyone’s had that one teacher once in their life who not only knows the content like the back of their hand but is passionate about it too.
How many people took that class? Now imagine if everyone was lucky enough to access them too.
Imagine being able to take classes from Feynman, Hawking and the like. We would only be too lucky.
Before you’d need a truckload of money to afford the college to have access to these lecturers. Now students of any background and class can learn from the world’s best.
Honestly, what’s not to love about this system?
Traditional classes are the definition of rigid. Be at X place at Y time for Z hours. You may get to choose from a selection of classes at different times if you’re lucky. And if those classes haven’t filled up admittance yet. Otherwise, you’re shit outta luck.
Online classes solve this problem and many others. Single mum with only a few hours at night free? It’s perfect for you. Primary carer for someone? You study when it suits you.
Hopefully, online education reaches a point where you can do it at your own pace too. Unemployed and super motivated? Cut the course length in half. Working full time and have kids? Drag that sucker out. Even if you’re finding one particular topic extremely hard. There would be no rush or deadline to finish it. Only to complete once you felt comfortable with your understanding of the topic.
The flexibility offered from online compared to internal classes just opens a huge range of doors to students that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to study. This opening of access is going to drive the new wave of education.
Staying on the Right Track
Distractions and procrastination have always been around. But they’re now more prominent than ever. Social media is built around attracting eyeballs and keeping them there. Avoiding the pull is incredibly hard and draining.
My strategy? Delete, deactivate or Do not Disturb. My Facebook account has been deactivated for yonks. Only safe from being deleted as I need Messenger. Instagram I have an account still but don’t have the app. Twitter is hard. I like Twitter and find it incredibly useful. But if I can stay off long enough and get into my flow state, I can’t be dragged back.
Another tip I find is to focus on 1 thing. I’m enjoying writing, learning to code and learning a second language. But I can’t do all at once. Pick the most pressing issue or subject you want to do and run with it. I don’t try to juggle them. As it just ruins me getting in the zone. If I can stick with one, I’ll eventually get into the zone where I find all the benefits of learning are.
Usually, I focus on one topic per half day. It’s usually the maximum amount of one subject I can tolerate in one sitting anyway.
Free all day? I’ll devote the morning session to one topic, then gym and lunch. Then onto another subject for the latter part of the day if I’m still up to the task.
Access ≠ Using it
So you’ve waded through the murky information and found you’ve found the beacon of light.
But having some of the best information at your fingertips is one thing. Using it is another
Now this will be an observation. I’m not judging, nor do I care what others do in their spare time. I don’t want to be that guy that makes lumping generalisations of a culture. But I just want to note what I witnessed. So, I was recently in Bali, Indonesia where I noticed this. Indonesia’s average monthly income is $320, ranked 62nd in the world. But everyone here I noticed always had a mobile phone. Often at the front of their stalls, they would be watching or playing a game guessing from the sound or if I had a peek.
For those who want to learn online, the world is your oyster. You’ve got Khan Academy, Python courses, YouTube series and everything in between. Shit, even if you’re a pirate of the online seas there is an abundance of paid courses that can be torrented for free.
Online education will solve many problems and open doors to those wanting to study. It won’t be without its challenges however. Studying online won’t be a utopia. But again, neither is traditional study either. I believe online study’s benefits will favour those from less fortunate backgrounds with a hunger to learn.