Tuesday, 12 February, 2013

Your classroom is here.

It was an article about three websites that compelled me to put down my thoughts now. Three websites which are now revolutionizing education in ways never before imagined - Coursera, Udacity and edX. Three revolutionary websites which provide online courses to students all over the world, taken by professors of the world's most renowned universities, on subjects ranging from astronomy, biology and chemistry to business, law and medicine. And this is not even the best part. This incredible wealth of knowledge is, my friends, free of cost to everyone.

It is absolutely incredible - the amount of information and knowledge that you can access now with your fingertips. Never before in the history of mankind has universal equality, in the truest sense of the word, been  accomplished. Think about it. Each and every one of us, equipped with an electronic device - a desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone - and a working internet connection, can get any question answered on any topic; whenever you want to. The truly remarkable consequence of the internet is thus, to me, intellectual equality. Barring the blocks and firewalls in a few countries (that is a completely different debate altogether), anyone anywhere in the world can learn about anything on the web. 

The earlier disadvantages of geographical limitations and economic disadvantages have all but disappeared, or are disappearing in due course. Imagine being in the world about two decades ago. You are researching a simple problem. Trying to understand an industry, let's say. What would have been your sources of information? Visits to physical libraries, scouting through numerous books and publications, trying to figure out  an expert on the industry and primary research. How about now? With a few clicks, in a matter of hours or rather minutes, you can possibly learn about any industry that exists in the world (non existing as well, perhaps). Of course accessibility, awareness, affordability are all still issues. But the extent of those issues are mere specks compared to the mammoth proportions of information barricades which existed before the world wide web. Take a bow, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau.

Everyday I find my innate curiosity jumping up and down with excitement at the sheer variety of the subjects I can get my hands on. Right now I am enrolled in Game theory (Coursera), The Modern World: Global history since 1760 (Coursera) and How to build a startup (Udacity). Courses taken by distinguished faculties from Stanford university, University of Virginia, MIT and serial entrepreneur Steve Blank. My personal favourite among all the astonishing knowledge banks on the web remains khanacademy though. Not because Salman has Indian roots (though I am incredibly proud of this fact) but because of the simple and lucid manner in which he handles topics as simple as basic arithmetic to complex financial conundrums like CDOs or the fiscal cliff. And he is not a teacher by profession.  Education, my dears, will never be the same again. Cheers.