Educational Frontiers

The direction of education is out and around.  By that I mean with every passing day more learning takes place outside of school walls, and surrounds us.  The standard educational system from the last hundred years has been heavily invested in financially, socially and culturally, and for that reason most likely will stick around in an increasingly hybrid form, adapting with the increase in access, speed, and depth of information (and in lesser quantity knowledge) available in a variety of decentralized formats.

As a high school counselor I actively encourage my students to not be restricted by our school’s course offerings, and to take advantage of new decentralized formats.  I point students towards new free self-directed online learning opportunities such as Coursera, Udacity, MIT Open Course Ware, and the plethora of courses found on ITunes U.  This year I recruited an entire class to take Stanford’s free course on Artificial Intelligence.  While I do not have a teaching license, or financial resources for this course, students were able to gain invaluable experiences for free from some of the leading thinkers in this knowledge area, just because I pointed them in this direction, giving it some level of validation for them.  Right now most parents and students use schools as a crutch, and are afraid to truly venture out into the educational marketplace, because they feel it lacks validity, they require the stamp of approval of schools. (In fact what caught the attention of our most competitive students for this course was the fact that they would be ranked at the end of it.)  This is changing, and will continue to do so as non-traditional learners leap ahead of those that stay rooted and constrained by conventional schools. At a recent Ivy League admissions event I attended, numerous representatives stated that they now are more likely to compare students from different schools similarly because they know they all have access to the Internet.  One representative stated, “If they are resourceful they know that they have access to everything online.”  While this was mostly in reference to online Advanced Placement offerings, it is a drastic shift in thinking.   I must admit I do not believe that admission into an elite university is the end all, far from it, but the fact that these traditional educational institutions have embraced disruptive educational forces is a strong sign that people’s perceptions about schooling have started to evolve and will continue to do so.