Social media is more than just Tweeting, or meeting up on Facebook and posting a few ‘wow’s!’ or even going on to Google Plus and engaging with some thought leaders. The true value of a world connected over the web lies in the ability to access information which has real value. And nothing ads value to information more than an educational setting.
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are partnering up to offer online free online courses through a venture knows as edX. To help put the move in context think of it as Goldman Sachs suddenly announcing that it was giving up profit as a motive for doing business and would, instead, turn their lavish Wall Street offices into a shelter for the city’s homeless.
The implications of the Harvard and M.I.T. free online education initiative are as disruptive for the traditional Ivy League club of knowledge as they are full of potential for the future of education. With a projected target audience of more than 1 billion around the globe who will suddenly have access to high quality education.
The vision behind it is not just to use the reach of technology to build an online community of learners but also to use the ability of technology to accurately track online behaviour to create different learning environments and learning experiences which further help advance knowledge.
This is just what social media does best. It utilises existing technology to break down traditional barriers to opportunity (in this case access to two of the world’s greatest Universities), creates access where none was before (for millions who would never be able to afford Ivy League prices), transforms the experience for all concerned (the two Universities will get as much out of this as those who attend, both will be subtly enriched with knowledge and experience) and disrupts the existing status quo (with Harvard and M.I.T. offering free online courses mid-level universities would have to significantly raise their game in terms of value, to compete).
In The Social Media Mind I argued that education, across the globe, has cost billions over the years and has not produced a satisfactory model because we are approaching the problem the wrong way. Rather than examine how we learn best and try to facilitate it, we demand that the learning process itself be shoehorned into a pre-conceived model that is deemed ‘best’.
The Harvard, M.I.T. experiment in online learning has the potential to change all of this by helping research teaching methods and teaching technologies to help create a better learning experience and more effective teaching techniques.
Knowledge made so accessible has the potential to radically transform lives and change the world.
The video below showcases the new course: