A futurist’s out-of-the-box ideas on how education should develop provide inspiration for the training programs of today.
Among the proposed solutions to America’s much-discussed crisis in public education are merit pay for teachers, more charter schools and curriculum reform. But recently the blog of The Futurist magazine offered a less common vision of where America’s education system needs to head — one that could inform professional training for adults right now.
The piece by author Lance Secretan looks to Sal Kahn for inspiration. After promising to help his young cousin with her homework, Kahn, a successful hedge fund manager, turned his attention to producing instructional videos for math students on YouTube, eventually becoming a hit with learners, starting the Khan Academy, quitting his lucrative job and winning the backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for his efforts.
But it wasn’t just Khan who profited from his adventure in remote learning, his cousin did pretty well out of the bargain too – her understanding of math shot up several grade levels and other students who viewed his videos seemed to find the online tutorials not only helpful, but actually more useful than traditional instruction. Fast Company looked into the success of the Khan Academy earlier this year and reported:
The “first feedback my cousins gave was that they preferred me on YouTube than in person.” Khan’s explanation, which is now the driving philosophy of the Academy, is that the one-size-fits-all lecture approach suffocates students, who learn at different rates and are often embarrassed to ask questions. At home, students can review basic material, repeat lessons, or skip ahead—all without the judging eyes of frustrated peers.
Virtual learning: Graduation no longer the top priority
So what does Secretan take from Khan’s experiences and from his inquiries into the way education is changing in general? He thinks that, like the Khan Academy, the future of education will be more learner-centered and more often virtual, offering these big predictions:
— Physical schools may become less necessary and the purpose of school buildings will change dramatically.
— A streamed video lecture by a world-class professional expert will often be of superior quality than an in-person lecture by a local teacher.
— The lectures will be completed in the evening so that tutoring can take place during the day, giving teachers the opportunity to spend more of their time offering personal guidance to each student.
— Graduation will not be a criterion — having a full grasp of each subject will be.
Obviously, with the current slow pace of even modest education reform in the U.S. it’ll be a long time before radical shifts like these occur in public schools, but other organizations might be able to put Secretan’s vision of education focused on mastery and untethered to physical location (either of instructors or learners) to use more quickly.
How? Perhaps by decreasing their reliance on physical classrooms and instructors in favor of exceptional video materials that trainees can follow at their own pace. Or by thinking of in-person trainers as individual mentors who can follow up on video instruction. Do you think Secretan’s on the right track?
London-based blogger Jessica Stillman covers generational issues and trends in the workforce for BNET.com.