For the past several years now, our digital worlds and our physical worlds have collided in many ways. As technology and the internet become ever more prevalent in our everyday lives, we continue to blur the line between the digital and the "real". With our dating lives, our friendships, and our professional lives taking place largely in the online realm, it's no surprise that our education and academic lives are also turning to the web. Online education has been around for some time now. Where at one time the online classroom and the online degree carried some form of negative stigma, today they are more widely accepted among academics, employers, and the general public. It was the first online educational realms that have paved the way for so many other online educational innovations and resources that we have today.
While the online world is often discredited in one way or another—social media is seen as frivolous and social networking a distraction–there's no denying the relevance and significance of many modern online tools and techniques that have cropped up in recent years. The online world has so much to offer for its sheer accessibility and reach. With educational tools available at the simple click of a button the possibilities are endless. These three modern trends in web and education tools are major movements for the online learning community and wonderful insights into the future of education and academia.
The TED establishment has been around for some time now. Launched initially in 1984, TED, standing for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, originated as a global conference for "ideas worth spreading". While the TED slogan hasn't changed, the program has evolved significantly throughout the years. Today, TED provides thousands of videos online on subjects ranging from the United States healthcare system to lessons from death row inmates and mineral mining in seawater. Students, teachers, parents, business people, artists, and everyone alike have something to gain from TED talks and the TED agenda. What TED communicates overall is that innovative and inspiring things are happening every day and we should explore them. By creating a platform where people can explore and openly discuss their thoughts and ideas, we create the potential for a better world and a stronger human community.
The Khan Academy has received a lot of buzz in recent months in the both the education and technology fields. Created in 2006 by MIT and Harvard Business school graduate Salman Khan, the Khan Academy seeks "to accelerate learning for students of all ages". The flipped classroom was covered by LectureTools recently and is a concept spearheaded in many ways by the Khan Academy. Khan provides over 3000 video tutorials on academic topics from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history. The videos teach hundreds of skills to practice to help students learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it, and at their own pace. Khan communicates a complicated and exciting transition in the world of education—free world-class education for whomever wants it.
As an evolution of the online learning world, many of the best and most renowned colleges and universities throughout the country are offering open courseware opportunities online. Schools like MIT (linked to above), Stanford, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, and many more offer access to actual classes taught by their professors. These courses vary in how much they offer, but most provide a real class syllabus, assignment list, readings, lecture notes, and more for free online. The open courseware initiative put in place by these institutions for higher learning display a new and exciting concept in the world of higher education. While at one time college was in many ways the world of the privileged, these open courseware initiatives invite anyone and everyone to access collegiate level learning. Something that technology and academia have come to agree on and work toward is that a solid education should be available to any who seek it.
Melissa Miller spent many years working odd jobs like street pantomime and burro grooming before finally admitting it was time to get her associate degree. Now she has sworn her life to helping others do the same by explaining the often tricky world of online education. Direct any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.