The Future Of Learning, Transformed By Software

iPad student girl

Photo: Associated Press

The education and learning industries, like most, should be profoundly transformed by software and technology over the next decade.It may happen slower than some fields, such as media, communication, and entertainment, which have already seen disruption. But barring a major derailing, it will happen — there are simply too many new opportunities, improvements, and efficiencies to ignore.

Tablets and electronic textbooks will gradually replace heavy, static paper books. E-books have different economics than paper, but are easier to update, can be more interactive, and are much more portable.

Education will become more distributed as web services connect teachers and learners in new ways — including self-service learning. This won’t replace formal education for most, but it should lead to an increase in informal and semi-formal education. It should also lead to an increase in asynchronous education, where people are learning the same thing at different times — the opposite of much of today’s education. Think of it as “DVR” or “on-demand” education, vs. today’s learning, which is more like live TV.

Adaptive learning — where students learn at their own pace using personalised curricula — may improve overall education quality at all levels. Some students will be faster than others, or better at certain things, but the idea is that this way, no one’s left way behind.

Streaming video and videoconferencing will make it easier to study courses originated in different cities, states, or countries. How about learning French from someone in Lyon? Or a humanities course from a world renowned specialist? These videos can also be made publicly available to anyone, not just registered students: See Apple’s iTunes U or Google’s YouTube Edu for early courses from dozens of universities.

Students and educators will get better online tools to perform their jobs. For educators, better grading, course management, and communication tools. For students, better course selection and study tools.

Over time, these changes could eventually profoundly transform the structure of education: When, what, and where you study, who you learn from, how much it costs, how many can attend, etc. But it’s going to take a while.

In the meantime, gradual changes should at least help create a better learning experience in settings that accept it.

More from our Future of Learning special report:

  • 15 Education And Learning Startups You Need To Know
  • POLL: What Technology Will Change Learning The Most?
  • Teach Your Kids How To Code, Not How To Speak Chinese

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