I found this very interesting TED talk this morning by Daphne Koller from Stanford University. She speaks about the power of online learning to reach thousands of people who otherwise do not have access to education opportunities, as well as the capabilities of the online learning environment. Coursera is the social entrepreneurship company she helped develop that works with the universities to sponsor the courses she is referencing.
Koller gives a great argument for using technology to not only reach more students, but provide personalized curriculum and feedback and expand the creativity and thinking of students via the online environment. Online learning can bring active learning and formative assessment and ignite student creativity and learning rather than just giving them information. Her approach is that universities should be providing this content free so that anyone can change their lives, expand their minds, and make the world a better place. While listening to her, I saw a direct connection to online professional development, which is something I am currently interested in and focused on in my work and doctoral research. A way to reach a much wider audience, provide the opportunity to learn, practice, and get personal feedback.
As a believer in the power of technology and online learning, I have to say I agreed with all her points, though I question how all of this can be done for free, another component she stressed. Free courses and access would definitely bring more students to the courses, as evidenced in her talk, but doesn't someone have to pay the people who are instructing the courses and developing the courses? There is a lot of production that goes into these courses, especially with the interactivity, assessments, and videos, so I guess that's where I just question the feasibility. As someone who designs and creates online professional development courses, I know I can't provide what I do for free because let's face it, I have to eat and pay my bills and it takes a great deal of time and effort to develop online courses. I absolutely agree online learning and courses are where we should be focusing to provide learning opportunities for all, not just those who are able to afford an education. But, I do need to figure out how free is going to be paid for - because nothing is truly free, is it?
I've provided the video of Koller's talk below. She makes some excellent points and has numbers and examples to show the power of the technology. I'd be interested to hear your views on how this type of online learning can in fact be offered free. My guess is there are grants involved. It would be nice to consider ways, without a big corporation or grants, to provide these types of opportunities free.