MIT and Harvard have announced the launch of edX, a “disruptive” initiative in worldwide online education that will leverage the best teachers with interactive learning technology. The promise of this newest of such initiatives that follow in the footsteps of the Kahn Academy is that it could well disrupt the careers of incompetent teachers, and maybe even the teachers unions. MITnews reports -
EdX brings a “possibility of transformation through education to learners across the globe,” (Harvard president) Faust said. “We are privileged to be here today to mark the creation of a new partnership between two of the world’s great universities, a partnership that will change our relationship to knowledge and teaching for the benefit of our students, and students and would-be students everywhere.”
Anant Agarwal, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and president of the newly formed edX, called the new initiative a “historic partnership.” Online education, he said, is creating a “revolution” driven by “the pen and the mouse,” adding that edX is “disruptive, and will completely change the world.” The new possibilities afforded by today’s technology, he said, have created “the biggest change in education since the invention of the printing press.”
And that’s the good news, that we can leap over our dysfunctional (especially in STEM subjects) public education system and their cadres of union stultified deadwood ‘educators’. Imagine how such course work will serve both home schooling and integrate with the full spectrum of brick and mortar schools. I predict that the course certification processes adopted with online education will compete well with the diploma and degree programs now in the mainstream. By ‘compete’ I mean compete in the job markets.
The bad news is how many American kids will tackle the offered course work, because it is hard and we know that worldwide kids from less developed countries will.
[Addendum] Not to defocus the topic of online learning too much, but it seems to me there will be another benefit to the funders and consumers of k-12 education. When the quality of teachers and teaching in public schools is criticized, left-leaning teachers leap to the fore with all kinds of denials and excuses. The denials are not worth wasting bits to address. However, the excuses for poor performance need airing.
Two obvious causes for poor performance in a classroom comprised of a cross section of students are 1) the out of control classroom due to bad behavior of kids whom the teacher cannot (may not?) control, thereby destroying the learning situation for everyone regardless of the teacher’s talents; and 2) the poorly prepared or incompetent teacher in a classroom of normally controllable kids – i.e. the learning environment is totally controllable.
From the national statistics on student performance and the fraction of uncontrollable classrooms in the country, it should be clear that the overwhelming source of student dumbth is due to #2 above. There are no statistics indicating that ‘the blackboard jungle’ is the norm across the land. Yet the (almost entirely leftwing) apologists for the state of public education overwhelmingly hide behind #1 as the reason for why our students don’t perform well, and why almost all of them going beyond high school have to be taught remedial basic skills in reading, writing, and math when they get to college. (Their deficiencies in other subjects like history, economics, social studies, … are just ignored and the resulting ignorance is visible anywhere you see younger adults open their mouths in public.)
Therefore, there is reason to hope that as online education spreads through the land we will see lessening of the impact from #2 above. And because more students can study in environments other than the classroom, there may also be a reduction in #1, the impact from disruptive students. The dynamic this imposes on the legacy cohort of ‘professional’ teachers will be hard to predict because of the presence and power of their unions. Thoughts?