By Brian L. Grant, MD
A recent Forbes article, “One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy Is Reinventing Education,” is inspiring and significant.
Another article “When Salman Khan Met Bill Gates,” features an interview with about Salman Khan,36, describing how he started his virtual classroom of more than 10 million students out of a closet in his Silicon Valley home.
I have been following with interest a tidal wave of innovation in online learning via a number of sites that have basically put online courses from major universities including the Khan Academy, Ted Talks, and more.
This trend is disrupting education in a major way, democratizing it and causing many to reconsider the cost/value equation or meaning of a campus education.
Clearly college has value, but is it the classroom? Or is it the peer group, the overall milieu, the dorms and frats, the football games, the mentoring of professors, the degree path, the proctored tests and graded papers?
Colleges and universities are increasingly expensive. Online learning is free or nearly so. The disruption that it represents may be epochal, allowing those without means anywhere in the world, to learn at a level that rivals the wealthiest students.
All it takes is an Internet connection, which I have seen in remote places and will be as common as electricity, accessible to the majority of the world.
In the end, great colleges and universities succeed by selecting capable students. They don’t make people smart, but take smart people and give them information and hopefully knowledge and some skills. But college is a beginning and online learning is another parallel path that is figuring itself out.
The main point is that continuous learning is essential in life. It requires first and foremost, a decent brain to start with, and character that includes motivation, curiosity, and hard work.
Think about a day long ago, when there was no Internet, no cell phones, no email, no Google or Facebook. Somehow business took place. That year was 1980!
Online learning, along with tried and true books help all of us to be lifelong students. See what is online, not to mention good old-fashioned books and lectures.
Whether about business, literature, politics, philosophy, computer programming, art or whatever moves you or is needed by you – experience alone without outside input does not cut it. Our own unique experience is skin deep and a mile wide.
I look forward to learning more about and partaking in these new learning opportunity and seeing how many carve out their own educations with or without the college experience.