Online learning “will be a revolution” for people around the world by 2030, giving the citizens of poorer countries educational opportunities they previously had no access to, according to the 2015 annual letter from The Gates Foundation.
This year’s letter — on the 15th anniversary of Bill and Melinda Gates’ organisation — highlights the foundation’s goals for the next 15 years.
“We think the next 15 years will see major breakthroughs for most people in poor countries,” the Gates Foundation letter notes. “These breakthroughs will be driven by innovation in technology — ranging from new vaccines and hardier crops to much cheaper smartphones and tablets — and by innovations that help deliver those things to more people.”
The Gates Foundation says it gives more money to education than any other cause in the US, calling it “the best lever we’ve seen for giving every child in America a chance to make the most of their lives.” Looking globally, they write, online education can be a powerful force for learning around the world.
Here’s what they predict online education will look like in 15 years for younger students living in poor countries:
Before a child even starts primary school, she will be able to use her mum’s smartphone to learn her numbers and letters, giving her a big head start. Software will be able to see when she’s having trouble with the material and adjust for her pace. She will collaborate with teachers and other students in a much richer way. If she is learning a language, she’ll be able to speak out loud and the software will give her feedback on her pronunciation. (Some sites do this today, but the technology will improve a lot.)
Importantly, The Gates Foundation letter notes that online classes will never be able to replace a teacher. Software may have the ability to benefit teachers in the classroom, though:
Even the most self-motivated student needs guidance and support. But software can play a crucial role, for example by connecting teachers to each other. They will be able to upload videos of themselves and get advice from their peers, watch the best teachers in the world at work, and get real-time feedback from their students. These advances will be important in the United States, and they will have an even bigger impact on teachers in developing countries where enrollment is high but achievement is not.
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