Will College Learning Be Influenced by Technology?
The Aspen Ideas Festival panel discussion “Will College Learning Be Influenced By Society” included Stanford Professor Andrew Ng and chief of staff to US Secretary of Education, Joanne Weiss. Moderated by NBC News Correspondent Rehema Ellis, the panel discussed how higher education is being influenced by changing technology.
The rising cost of higher education is becoming a major issue in the US. Joanne Weiss made the astonishing point that the cost of a college education has been rising at five times the median household income. This is simply not sustainable. So what’s the answer?
Well it’s probably a combination of many different factors, but one of them is certainly the use of technology. Andrew Ng recently launched three online courses at Stanford. He said that he taught a machine learning class that had 100,000 students. Had the course contained his normal number of students, it would have taken him 250 years to get that sort of reach. He talked about the many benefits of online courses. Beyond the obvious reach benefits, online learning allows students to move at their own pace, ask questions that wouldn’t necessarily get covered in a 400-person lecture, and work in a peer-reviewed environment. In certain scenarios that were less quantitative (like humanities courses), students would be able to get a training boot camp to learn how to properly grade their peers.
Weiss shared another harrowing statistic: 96% of the new jobs created in the last year went to somebody with at least some sort of post-secondary education. With online learning, you can give people access to the resources of prestigious universities. This would allow schools to move away from the “one size fits all” model of teaching.
In the the post session Q&A, an interesting point was raised about the future role of teachers. When asked if they would become obsolete because of the access students would have to online courses, Andrew Ng insisted that their role could evolve for the better. Instead of focusing on lectures, which are essentially just presentations of information from a text book, teachers could provide more individual attention to students. As Weiss said, “everything moves slower in education, than we think it ought to.” But things are going to change soon, and it will be interesting to see how institutions adopt the new technology and resources that are available to them.
How do you think college learning will be influenced by technology?