Tag Archives: coursera

Virtual Reality: The Next Logical Step for Education

We’ve seen the traditional education model and current trends in education. Without a doubt, modern technology integrated with education has caused disruption in education for the benefit of knowledge seekers. Although they might not receive college credit, there are free platforms available online to anyone wanting to learn, such as Coursera. Anyone that wants clarification in a certain topic can watch a tutorial video online on Khan Academy for free. All these materials are readily accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

We have managed to fit hefty textbooks and learning materials into a portable device, whether on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. With all this knowledge available at the palm of your hands, the next step is applying that knowledge to the world, which is where virtual reality triumphantly comes in. In our early educational years, we learn about animals, so we take a field trip to a farm. Then we learn about Native Americans, so we learn about pueblos and teepees. We move on to Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre, World War II and the Berlin Wall. We learn about the struggles not only in the Middle East, but all around the world. Maybe we take an engineering class and want to observe the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Geography, travel costs, safety, and liability are only some of the factors that limit one from observing all these interesting locations, scattered across the world.

Virtual reality eliminates all of these barriers from education and wonder. Whether you want to see the Pyramids at Giza or the canals of Venice, Italy, it can all be available to one in the comfort of a classroom, bedroom, or wherever one pleases. If you’re feeling nostalgic and want to visit your childhood neighborhood or you want to learn about where your ancestors come from, it’s all possible. The possibilities with virtual reality are limitless, not just limited to a new kind of gaming experience. Google has acknowledged this and is working on making these virtual experiences affordable and accessible. With its Expeditions Pioneer program, Google is making these virtual field trips available for free for schools, starting in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. The program includes giving schools Google’s basic Cardboard virtual reality headset and smartphones to use with the headsets. Whether a school is well-funded or underfunded, students can all have the same kind of access. If you’re not a student but still want to have these virtual experiences, Google’s Cardboard is still extremely affordable for $25 or even cheaper. It’s hard to put a price on an unlimited supply of experiences, but it’s safe to say that $25 is well beneath that price.

Virtual reality may seems like an abstract platform for education, but it is exactly what we need to supplement our evolving education system. If we can access the classroom and educational materials from virtually anywhere, why not access the world from anywhere too?

Are your kids going to a traditional, 4 year university?

The traditional education model has been outlined as the way one would think of school back in the 90s or early 2000s. A teacher sits in front of a class, lectures, gives homework, and then tests students of their knowledge retention. Higher educational institutions have been veering from this traditional structure by moving classes online and making the classroom more focused on problem solving than retention of facts. 

Since the typical idea of college, i.e. think traditional four year universities, is becoming outrageously expensive and alternatives are arising, can it sustain itself? Time Magazine conducted a study to forecast the change coming to higher education institutions. The focus of this study was to hone in on the costs and benefits of sending children to an institution. Parents were asked for the main reason the want their kids to go to college. Their answers were centric to the idea of wanting them to have a foundation of knowledge to enter the job market in their field of study. The value added from attending an institution was to provide a gateway to a career.

What was not so important, however, was the cultural immersion, diversity and collaboration only attending a physical location can provide. Many academics view college as four years of collaborative learning with the smartest people in an area – a place to make friends, life partners, a professional network etc… Though the students may find this valuable, those paying the tuition find this as merely a fringe benefit.

This being the case, the argument can be made that physical, brick & mortar universities may be a dwindling phenomenon. After all, how can you justify paying upwards of $200,000 for a four year experience when ridiculously cheaper options present themselves. 

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a game changer in the educational area. Khan Academy, Coursera, Lynda.com, and YouTube in general provide inexpensive, if not free, ways to become educated on just about anything you can think of. If a student can access the internet, they can attend top level college courses across the world and learn whatever they want. 

Going back to the Time Magazine piece, it’s not the collegiate experience parents are worried about, it’s the preparedness for the workforce. As of now, it is not feasible to obtain a certain certification from a MOOC and have it compare to a degree from a university. In the future, this may not be the case. When parents feel comfortable with a MOOCs’ ability to educate their children sufficiently for industry, they may tighten their purse strings and buy their kid a nice computer.

Identifying Disruptive Trends in the Traditional Education System

Current trends in education include online learning programs, new technological hardware, virtual reality, and the classroom outside of school. Online learning platforms, such as Khan Academy and Coursera, are free options for anyone to access. The two platforms vary in their background, but ultimately they allow anyone to educate themselves without a hefty price tag. Online classes allow students to take a class at their own time and pace. Classes can also keep their material online, leading to the idea of flipped classrooms. Students can watch lectures at home and use the class time to ask the professor questions, effectively saving time. Virtual reality further extends online classrooms. Students, professors, and visitors can virtually sit-in and participate in a classroom from anywhere in the world. Furthermore, students can take virtual field trips without the cost, expenses, and liability that comes with traditional field trips.

These trends are visible in all levels of education, from K-12 and higher education. Textbooks no longer have to be carried around since they can all be accessible in a lightweight computer, tablet, and even a smartphone. Schools have also invested in smart boards, which make a traditional white board more interactive for students. Technology also allows students to collaborate together on their work and projects without necessarily being together at the same place. Students can also refer to material online if they miss a class or just want to refresh their memory.