Episode 3: Paul Taylor on Online Education

November 8, 2012 // News, Podcast

In this episode, Paul Taylor of Global Citizen talks with New Robot Overlords host Myk Willis about online education, and how technology may allow us to fundamentally change how it works in the future. Paul is currently partnering with Wisdom University to create a social education and innovation platform to help social change-makers create the change they want to see in the world.

Paul observes that much of the excitement around online education today is around accessibility. Making course materials available online provides global, and often free, access to knowledge that was once only available to a very few privileged individuals. He points out that a kid in the developing world can now learn artificial intelligence from the top professor in the field. (Which, as it turns out, is an apropos example for yours truly. I recently took the Machine Learning course from Andrew Ng at Coursera online university and enjoyed it immensely. I marveled how I was able to take the course from my own (remote) home, on my own schedule, for free, whereas just a few years ago I would’ve had to apply to the university, pay potentially thousands of dollars for tuition and materials, and travel to be physically present for each lecture and lab.)

This internet-enabled dissemination of knowledge clearly has enormous global benefit, but Paul argues that it is just the beginning of what online education can become.

Paul describes how the established lecture-based learning format, with which most of us associate formal education, has been shown to be relatively ineffective in providing subject matter mastery to students. He argues that online technologies provide the opportunity to facilitate mastery-based learning, by building on personalization, social networking, and other existing technologies. Personalization of the curriculum, facilitated online tutoring, and other other techniques can fundamentally change the nature of learning.

Paul also discusses the creativity gap, and how employers are increasingly finding it difficult to find leaders with sufficient creative skills to confront the challenges of a quickly-changing landscape. He believes that online education platforms could eventually provide a more holistic learning experience that would allow the innate creativity of individuals to flourish, rather be tamped down by the existing structure.

Some Links around the Interwebs Related to the Discussion

  • Ken Robinson says Schools Kill Creativity in his TED talk.
    • (BTW, our guest Paul calls him “Sir Ken Robinson.” Those polite Canadians!)
  • Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind argues that right-brainers will rule the world.

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