Dec12

Education is Next for Technology Disruption

In the future, education will happen over the internet, says Jessica Furseth.

The internet – a perfect tool for distributing information – is the classroom of the future. At least that’s what Marc Andreessen, co-founder of top venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, thinks: “20 years from now, […] online education is going to be the most dominant form of education in the world.”

Speaking at startup hub ‘1776’, Andreessen expressed his enthusiasm for the MOOC (massive online open course) model: millions of students can gain access to the best teachers and resources, benefiting from adaptive learning technologies adjusted to their individual needs. It’s early days still, but the startup arena is full of companies keen to facilitate the moving of education from classrooms to the internet. Here are some interesting contenders:

Degreed

Online teaching is one thing, but keeping track of who’s actually learning is another. Degreed set out to try and solve this problem by providing tools for teaching institutions to assess students’ progress and ultimately provide them with credentials. States Degreed: “We learn our entire lives through, but historically the degree is the only measurement of education. Degreed helps measure all learning – academic, professional, and informal.”

Udacity

Udacity, backed by Andreessen Horowitz, offers a broad range of specialist web development and software engineering courses to online students. “We are reinventing education for the 21st century by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment,” states Udacity, as it aims to bring accessible and affordable education to the masses.

Zzish

Zzish is a platform for building mobile learning apps, aiming to make it easier for creators to provide a simple and effective virtual classroom. “Most of the 100,000 mobile education apps have no teacher dashboard, while the dashboards in those apps that do have them are often basic,” states Zzish. The company’s live dashboard allows teachers to keep track of students’ performance in real time, providing help where needed.

Ranku

Operating as a specialised search engine for education, Ranku helps students discover and choose between online education programmes. “The way universities find students and the way students find universities is broken. Ranku is here to level the playing field,” states the company. The top hits for education on search engines aren’t necessarily the best choices, as less obvious schools may be just as good while also charging less.

Lingvist

Want to learn a new language in 200 hours? This is Lingvist’s claim to fame, using big data and statistical analysis. “Lingvist arranges language learning into micro-lessons that each learner completes in the order most efficient for them,” states the company. The founders have pooled their knowledge from working on Skype and the Hadron Collider, creating a smarter learning tool that adapts to users’ progress.

Education has been among one of the slower industries to embrace technological change, in part due to the belief that people have to be physically present in order to learn and be assessed. But even if we keep students in the classroom, technology could still make the teaching process more efficient:

“Technology will automate tasks such as taking attendance, handing back assignments, and checking multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank answers on tests and quizzes. Teachers will also change how they plan curriculum, units, and lessons as software takes care of some basic instruction and gives them real-time data for tailoring lessons to student needs,” says Thomas Arnett, research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.

The best case scenario is that technology will free up time so teachers can spend more time with individual students. More efficient use of equipment and resources should also make it possible to personalise learning, adjusting the curriculum to the needs of each student.

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