Much has been made of the gains that education has made in the developing world recently. Primary school attendance is up and education parity has been met in many countries. While quality still lags up to 100 years behind the developed world, a new phenomenon could change that.
Technology-aided education, ed tech, has the potential to change the way education is understood and delivered around the world. In a world of exploding high education prices and more technical demands in the working world, especially for skills in programming and developing, ed tech is on the rise.
The spread of the Internet has helped to make this possible. Lynda.com was recently bought by LinkedIn and provides online tutorials and classes on anything from photography to programming. A paid subscription is required to access most of them, but the potential is there to change the way learning is done in the classroom. Another company, Udemy, offers similar classes on Java, Excel and HTML. Fifty percent of the company’s revenue comes from outside of the U.S.
These online courses present easy access to learning opportunities. If governments or schools can provide for subscription costs, they can unlock a huge wealth of knowledge for a great many people.
With the spread of mobile phones throughout the developing world, they too have had a role to play in education. Education can be an equalizer, and with more and more people having access to phones they in turn have more and more access to it.
Different mobile-based services offer a variety of educational opportunities. Dr. Math enables both primary and secondary school students to request help in real-time from volunteer tutors using MXit, a popular platform for social messaging in South Africa. MobiLiteracy aims to improve literacy at home in countries where teachers are often stretched thin in the classroom. A pilot program was kicked off in Uganda last year with help from USAID.
Interestingly, MobiLiteracy targets adults before children. It offers daily reading lessons by SMS or audio. This raises an important point about ed tech: since it is mostly based outside the classroom and accessed either by the Internet or mobile phones, the knowledge is open to anyone. Students can use it to supplement their learning or to help with homework, teachers can use it to their advantage in the classroom and adults can continue their education outside the classroom or even begin an education they never had.
With access to resources like Udemy, people in the developing world can have the chance to get an education that they might not have access to otherwise. In this ever-evolving world where much value has been put on university degrees as prerequisites for employment, the ability to acquire knowledge for less or no fee is valuable. If an individual can perform a certain skill such as program a website, it does not matter as much where that person went to school or how high their GPA was. All that is needed is Internet or a mobile phone, some motivation and a dream. With continued development, ed tech can be the next big thing in global education.
– Greg Baker