Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Free Universal High Quality Education for Sarawakians

Free access to high quality learning resources is something that I believe many of us Sarawakians would never have thought could be real. Today, it's our new weapon for mass education, and great quality.

YouTube EDU and Academic Earth have done well in spreading learning.

This is welcome news for students and families around the world who have had little educational choice in the past, except that provided by the public sector. It is globalisation bringing education to students across the world, shortening the distance between countries and bringing quality lectures to emerging and developed nations.

Given that we are entering into the Web 2.0 era, Google has an opportunity to go further in upsetting status quo. It can do so by launching, in tandem with YouTube EDU, contests and small prizes for students to enrich the core material.

Opportunities for improvement include creating and sharing translations, mini-case studies, transcriptions, and slides to accompany the courses. Winners of such contests can be chosen through a combination of peer voting and expert review to ensure accuracy of the proposed enhancements.

Precedents exist for engaging students from poor communities in creation of eLearning resources. At http://www.openworld.com and http://www.entrepreneurialschools.com, sample YouTube clips and online work-study research projects show what students in extremely impoverished, war-torn areas of the world can do in response to small (USD30) microscholarships, vouchers, and prizes.

Billons of camera phones capable of recording and sharing short video clips are heading to impoverished areas of the world in the next few years.

If YouTube EDU opts to encourage co-creation opportunities for students, a wealth of new eLearning resources may be generated by media-capable students who are now shortchanged by 19th century-style schools.

This may create an grassroots opportunity for new, market-sensitive learning ventures to flourish.

In line with its “Education anywhere and anytime” vision, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) imparts on students, courses on public health, art, music and various other subjects through mobile phones. IGNOU now serves about 1.8 million students in India and 32 countries abroad through 21 Schools of Studies and an elaborate network of 58 Regional centres, 1804 study centres, and 49 overseas centres.

Looking at the mobile phone penetration in Malaysia, we can think of using the medium to impart education. Education and technology cannot be seen separately. Following IGNOU's steps in spreading learning to rural India, Malaysia can likewise, take education, especially vocational education, to our kampongs through mobile handsets.

IGNOU believes in imparting quality education to the masses. These easily accessible modules would be implemented in collaboration with the Communication and Manufacturing Association of India. The courses are offered through text, video and graphics mode. IGNOU would also provide public health courses on nutrition, public health, AIDS awareness, and many other educational contents. Furthermore, students do not have to pay anything extra for the new service.

YouTube EDU launched, on 26 March 2009, an educational hub “volunteer project sparked by a group of employees who wanted to find a better way to collect and highlight all the great educational content being uploaded to YouTube by colleges and universities”. The site is aggregating videos from dozens of colleges and universities, ranging from lectures to student films to athletic events. Some of this stuff is solid gold (the Stanford and MIT lectures are really good).

Academic Earth is an organization building a platform for video and other educational resources from top universities, think tanks, and conferences. The company has the stated goal of “giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education.”

Academic Earth offers 60 full courses and 2,395 total lectures (almost 1300 hours of video) from Yale, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Princeton that can be browsed by subject, university, or instructor through a user-friendly interface. Additionally, editors have compiled lectures from different speakers into Playlists such as “Understanding the Financial Crisis” and “First Day Of Freshman Year.” The site also features a roster of famous guest lecturers on entrepreneurship and technology including Larry Page, Carol Bartz, Tim Draper, Elon Musk, and Guy Kawasaki.

These aren't radically new ideas. Fora.TV and BigThink both offer intellectual video content online. iTunes U hosts a lot of university content as well. Unlike Big Think, Academic Earth isn’t creating original content, it’s just repurposing existing academic content. And Fora.TV seems to focus more on speeches and public lectures. But Academic Earth has the right plan around providing free course lectures. You can watch an entire semester’s worth of lectures in a few days.

Fellow Sarawakians, you know what to do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You may also want to check out this recently launched website: http://www.edforall.net. It not only includes video lectures but also lecture notes, slides, online textbooks, etc. organized for easy access with resources adapted from top universities such as MIT, Stanford, Yale and Berkeley. Edforall has a Facebook page: Education For All on Facebook.

Another reason to check it out - edforall is developed by a Malaysian.