Since this is the last blog entry for 2011, I thought it apropos to wax optimistic for the new year, in the hope that it will bring positive changes to the way we educate and train ourselves to make the most of our short time here on Earth.
A Personalized Approach is Key
Right now, things are not looking so rosy from an educational perspective in the United States. According to Stanford professor Daphne Koller’s essay, published earlier this month in the New York Times, the U.S. currently ranks 55th in quality when it comes to elementary math and science education, 20th in high school completion and 27th in the fraction of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science and engineering. With numbers like those, we should be worried; very worried.
Prof. Koller is part of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford, so naturally she’s a proponent of investing more in forms of education that are technologically advanced. She’s also a big believer in personalizing the educational experiences of students, rather than continuing on the tradition of the “standard lecture environment.” She cites the success of the Khan Academy, a site that offers short video lessons, many of them with graded exercises, along with her own institution’s offering of online computer science courses, which garnered an enrollment of 300,000 students. That was only in the first four weeks of their availability.
According to Koller, “First, we see that video content is engaging to students – many of whom grew up on YouTube – and easy for instructors to produce. Second, presenting content in short, bite-size chunks, rather than monolithic hour-long lectures is better suited to students’ attention spans, and provides the flexibility to tailor instruction to individual students. Those with less preparation can dwell longer on background material without feeling uncomfortable about how they might be perceived by classmates or the instructor. Conversely, students with an aptitude for the topic can move ahead rapidly, avoiding boredom and disengagement.” Boiled down, Koller is suggesting that education become more like an individualized tutoring session, rather than a one-size-fits-all proposition.
What Works in the Classroom Can Work in the Boardroom
Koller’s personalized approach can work equally as well when it comes to corporate training. What college students call “lectures,” employees refer to as “training seminars.” Both can be equally disengaging and difficult to manage. We know what the solution is: more online education and training to keep learners engaged and costs in line. Students can work at their own pace from anywhere, as can employees who need to upgrade or learn new skills. The important thing to remember is that the world is our classroom, and technology can help us make it a more effective, engaging one.
Here’s hoping 2012 will usher in a brighter future for online education and training. Happy New Year!
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