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On the Revolutionary Impact of the Internet on Education


Coursera Online ClassesThat technology and the internet in particular have redefined what is possible in all fields of life is known. Today I will talk about my personal experience with two internet based solutions that I believe have truly transformed the way we view learning and education.

Khan Academy is perhaps a name you are already familiar with if you have school going kids. What started in the mid-2000s as a way to teach his cousins maths long distance became an internet based math tutorial site predominantly for high school students around 2008. Today, with better funding and a crack team to manage, Khan Academy has become incredibly comprehensive, with content across math, science, humanities, computer science and more. And all for free! The distinguishing feature of Khan Academy’s tutorials are how they focus on teaching concepts using the traditional teaching method using the blackboard- the tutorials have all been done by Sal Khan, the person behind this initiative.

I first came across this site when I read about it in one of the business magazines where Bill Gates had vouched for it saying he used it to teach his kids. My daughter, who had just entered high school then, began using it sporadically for maths. Even today Sal Khan is her go to man to clear conceptual doubts in Maths!

Recently, I visited the Khan Academy site after a long time and was stumped by seeing how much the content has expanded, and the number of features they have introduced to make it more interactive and collaborative.
Incidentally, there is even a tutorial on Cryptography.

https://www.khanacademy.org/math/applied-math/cryptography/crypt/v/intro-to-cryptography

ParentEdge had covered careers in Cryptography in one of its earlier issues! Not only that, I saw material for SAT prep and even IIT JEE!!

So Khan Academy is a boon for children, schools and parents. For parents, it is a good way to brush up concepts, and also to actively facilitate their children’s learning. I know of schools in India that are recommending the Khan Academy to students and their teachers. The portal is equally useful for children who need additional inputs to clarify concepts and for motivated kids who would like to explore higher level topics.
And, none of this would have been possible but for the internet.

Now moving on to Coursera, a stand out example of a new trend, MOOC, which is creating a lot of buzz in academic circles. MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Courses and Coursera is another nonprofit set up by Stanford University professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. The vision of Coursera and such other similar initiatives (Udacity, edX) is to make college education accessible for free to people around the world. So, they offer ‘real’ college level courses, in partnership with leading universities across the world, online through their portal. You can go to the portal and sign up for any course and every course follows a schedule. The lectures are video recorded and put up week after week. There are assignments and quizzes and end of course exams also. Assignments are usually peer-reviewed and exams (with multiple choice questions) are graded. If you do well you are awarded a certificate of accomplishment. And so it goes.

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Sudha Kumar is a marketing professional and runs a marketing services firm, Prayag Consulting. She has made her foray into publishing through ParentEdge. Over the last two decades, she has learnt a thing or two about being a working mom. That said, her views on parenting continue to evolve, as she learns from her experiences, reading, and now, from her children!

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4 thoughts on “On the Revolutionary Impact of the Internet on Education

  1. Kritika Srinivasan

    Isn’t technology amazing? Perhaps one of the best things about MOOCs is that you can “Eat your cake, and have it too.” Students can make a lucrative career for themselves in any field that they want to and at the same time, continue to indulge their interest in art history or cryptology or forensics through these courses!

    Reply
  2. Sudha Kumar

    Yes Kritika, that’s one of the most significant benefits. It can also help students augment their understanding of a subject they wish to pursue their careers in too. On a different note, can be great for professionals who wish to refresh their skills.

    Reply
  3. Vijay Menon

    I’ve looked at Khan admiringly and have done a MOOC at Coursera. Both are pretty amazing. The Coursera MOOC I attended had incredibly good video lectures but the discussion boards were understandably a little patchy since the students came from a wide mix of backgrounds and preparation levels.

    Apart from making world class education available to all of us, I think MOOCs bring back one of the nicest things about great universities — the ability to ‘audit’ courses. You can pursue a course after sampling it. This really puts the fun back into learning and allows you to do courses you wouldn’t dream of doing otherwise.

    And of course, MOOCs now have a star endorsement — Satya Nadella said in his speech after taking over as CEO at MS that he buys more books that he can read and signs up for more courses than he can complete :). Story of our lives…

    Reply

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