MOOCs, Massive Open On line Courses, are changing the education world, particularly in those areas where education is not very good. Nowadays students all over the world have the possibility to enroll into top courses given by the very best teachers in the world. It is, to a certain extent, like attending Berkeley, … and Stanford and the MIT and Cambridge or Oxford, and all at the same time. Of course, without the tuition fees.
I have to say I got curious and I enrolled into a course at Stanford, on Data Analytics, and I should say that it was really good, at least for the first few lessons. Then I gave it up because it was not just good, it was really demanding! I had to fill in forms, show the practice I did, take basically one exam at any lesson to move on to the next one. It was really a serious commitment and I decided I did not have time for that. Still, it reinforced me the feeling that these courses are for real.
Of course, you need to have a good Internet connection and this is not a given in many parts of the world. Just last week I gave a talk at the St. Joseph College in Kerala, India, and I discovered that they had very good Internet connection. Actually, THEY said the connection was very good. It was as good as the one I have back home in Italy, but mine is serving just my home, their is serving the whole college! Just imagine what a student can do in such places if he tries to follow a course from his home. Connectivity is still a dream to full fill in many parts of the world.
Because of this, projects like this one from Microsoft make perfect sense.
They aim at blending real classroom in bricks and mortar where it is feasible to provide connectivity with on line open courses given by the best professors in the world.
So it is clicks and bricks.
This makes the access to high quality education economically sustainable in most Countries. At the same time it will change the way we think about education, and these changes are in synch with changes we are seeing, and will be seeing more and more, in the biz environment with a seamless interplay of bits and atoms.
You will still go to bricks, at the client premises, but you are likely to bring bits along, not just the ones of documents in your computer but also, and more important, the ones of your colleagues brains that will become available through clicks on the customer premises.
Another important twist is the evolution towards continuous education. This will be more and more required to counteract the depreciation of knowledge over time. With a half life in many areas that has now approached 5 years (and keeps shrinking) one has to keep “updating” his knowledge to remain on the leading edge, and in a world that is more and more competitive and demanding, where industry and their organisational capabilities diminish, leaving the single person to take care of his own education and training, continuous education will become a must.