Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Democratizing education

A NYTimes Article today titled "Skillshare Raises $3.1 million to turn everyone into teachers" highlights, a fascinating site where anyone can sign up to teach a class about something that they know well, and anyone can sign up to learn.

What a wonderful idea! While continuing education classes have existed for decades, I believe this is a game-changer because of how easy it makes offering a class of your own. It points to a bright future where education, in the purest, most enjoyable sense of the word, is democratized. Apparently, this is the very goal, as noted in the article:
Mike Karnjanaprakorn, one of the founders of the company and its chief executive, said he hoped Skillshare would broaden access to classroom learning and education... 
“We can use the Web to democratize learning and make it affordable and accessible to anyone,” he said.
By making it easy to take classes in any topic that you care about, I think this approach will restore the genuine enjoyment of learning that is sadly missing in many traditional classrooms filled with students following a predetermined sequence of courses under the corrupting influence of the carrot-and-stick grading system.

A quick peak at the website shows varied offerings: "How to pick your poison: Sake basics", "The art of the cold call", "How to get profiled in the NY Times",  "How to get a job at a startup", "Running 101: from 0 to your 1st race", "Game mechanics for social apps" ...

Most classes, understandably, are geared towards a general audience and are for a single session; but I wonder if in a few years we may not see full-length courses on this site or another like it, that require much more advanced pre-requisites, for instance, engineering courses like Calculus or Communication theory? (Given the increasing number of engineering Ph.D.'s that go to industry jobs, I think there will be no dearth of prospective teachers). And if so, would the availability of such courses affect enrollment in traditional universities?

Skillshare is currently available in New York (and seems to be starting soon in Philadelphia and San Francisco as well). I can't wait for it to come to L.A.

P.S.: I also discovered that the Skillshare founders have a nice blog to go with their website.


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