Evolving Educational Systems

We are living in revolutionary times when it comes to education.
More and more, people are turning to the internet for their learning, and before too long I expect our entire educational system will be turned on its head because of “non-traditional” offerings. Even if the educational norms aren’t turned completely upside down, new models will undoubtedly emerge. Consider, for example, that MIT has an “Open Course Ware” program that’s been around for the last 10 years, a clearly revolutionary idea that makes MIT courses available to anyone for free. No signing up, no payments, just wide-open courses on topics ranging from holographic imaging to modeling environmental complexity to writing about literature. Granted, these courses aren’t designed for online learning, they’re in-class curricula made accessible, but certainly an enterprising and serious student could learn an awful lot from MIT for free.
Of course education is about more than content. It’s about engaging with others and the credibility that comes with a degree. And while we Dialogue Educators don’t necessarily think engaging online is the same as engaging face-to-face (and it isn’t), nevertheless our world is racing ahead in such a way that both online communities and connections between people in cyberspace are engaging enough – and sometimes even preferable – for those who want to band together around common interests without attending in-person learning events.
But what about accreditation? A degree? Is it necessary?
I anticipate that it will be a long while before a degree from Stanford or Harvard doesn’t carry any weight, but I also anticipate that new forms of credibility will spring up and become viable resume-builders as learning online only increases in scope and quality.
I can envision a future in which a person builds her own degree based on interest alone and learns at her own speed and from her own chosen sources. And I imagine new evaluative systems will spring up to accommodate this type of learner, much as the university systems have learned how to evaluate people who were homeschooled.
All of this bodes well for Dialogue Educators, wouldn’t you agree?
What do you think our future holds?

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