The Future of Education


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This is a deck I prepared for a client back in April 2013 looking at the future of education. It's broad but picks up on some key trends.

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  • TOM BIOHi my name's Tom Cheesewright and have been writing and broadcasting under the name Book of the Future for the last seven years, alongside involvement in a bunch of different technology based businesses. As you may guess, my interest is in the technologies and trends that are going to shape our lives in the years to come.NEXT SLIDE
  • 20 MINS TALK 40 MINS DEBATEEDUCATION FOCUS ON HEHOW AND WHY5 TRENDSToday as usual I’m going to talk for about 20 minutes then open up a debate for the rest of the hour. First I’m going to narrow the scope a bit, talking about which aspects of the education market I have been focused on and why they are most important.For those who haven’t been in previous sessions I’ll briefly recap why I believe technology will be the biggest change driver in the next 20 years and speak about why it will have a particular impact on education.Then I’ll focus on five specific trends to get you thinking, and we’ll open up the floor for debate.NEXT SLIDE
  • WHAT DO WE MEAN BY EDUCATION?TEACHING LEARNING ; RESEARCH ; SOCIAL AND SOCIALISATION25% OF GRADSFUNDING: 15BN VS 6.4BN75% FUTURETRACK4% UPPER MIDDLE CLASS####What do we mean by education? Do we mean teaching and learning? Research? Preparation for life? The Robbins report back in 1963 was pretty clear that all of these were important aspects of university.You can’t deny the importance of its social and socialising influence either – after all 25% of graduates meet their partner at university?But there are two figures that made it easy for me to know what to focus on.Firstly, income. What are the universities funded to do?Teaching gets over £15bn. Research less than half that. So according to the principles of the Robbins report the two should be maintained alongside each other in the ‘pursuit of truth’. But it’s clear their primary purpose for the funders is to teach.And why do people want to get taught?Accoding to the large scale Futuretrack study, 75% of people go to university to get a better job.This is my interpretation of numbers – they had slightly more categories. In fact 4% of people go to university just because ‘it’s normal for someone like me’. You can safely call them upper middle class.But for the vast majority of people, the reason they choose to go on to higher education is to improve their career prospects, either because they have a specific career in mind like law or medicine. Or because they simply believe that a degree makes them more employable.####Before we get into the meat of this presentation I just wanted to set the context as usual. Knowing that you work with UCLAN I based most of this on the HE sector, but much of it actually could be applied across the board. Even within that though, there are a lot of activities that take place inside the heading of ‘education’ that we could discuss – research for example. Or the social and socialising aspect of university – did you know 25% of graduates meet their partner at University?I want to be specific that we are talking about teaching and learning: the content, the methods of delivery, the business side and how technology is going to influence all of those factors.Once you narrow that down you need to spend a bit of time understanding the consumer for these services and what drives them. Nothing communicated that to me better than this research from the long term Futuretrack study sponsored by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit. This is my interpretation of numbers – they had slightly more categories. In fact 4% of people go to university just because ‘it’s normal for someone like me’. You can safely call them upper middle class.But for the vast majority of people, the reason they choose to go on to higher education is to improve their career prospects, either because they have a specific career in mind like law or medicine. Or because they simply believe that a degree makes them more employable.It is in the context of understanding this driver that the trends I will talk about sits.
  • If you were in the last two sessions you’ll know my take on this, but for those that weren’t here’s a quick precis.When you’re thinking about the future you can take all sorts of factors into account – political, economic, social, legal, environmental. But all of these – even major global events like climate change – progress in a linear fashion. They are pretty predictable, as long as you’re looking at a stable, northern hemisphere economy like ours, and only considering a relatively short timescvale like twenty years.
  • Inside those parameters there is only one change driver that exhibits exponential change potential. And that is technology.The affordable computing power available to us has double every two years for the last fifty, and it continues to do so, driving similarly exponential change in every related field. This is why when I’m looking at the future, I always start from the disruptive influence of technology.
  • RIPE FOR DISRUPTIONPRESIDENT OF HARVARDOXFORD CAMBRIDGE 800 YEARSCHANGE IS COMINGAnd no industry is more ripe for disruption than education. This is a quote from Larry Summers, former president of Harvard. And has a point.If anything he is understating. How long have Oxford and Cambridge been at the pinnacle of UK higher education? Eight hundred years. Imagine United and city winning the premiership every year for 800 years.Change is coming.
  • DEMAND DOWN BECAUSE OF COST IN UKDEMAND CAN’T BE MET IN INDIATWO BOTTLENECKS: COST AND CAPACITY###There are some major shifts going on in the global market.UK applications fell 5.5% following the introduction of higher fees to their lowest level since 2008.Yet in India the department of education estimated that they would need to build 1500 universities just to meet demandThere are two clear bottlenecks: cost and capacity. The old models simplydo not allow us to deliver higher education to enough people at a price that the state, or individuals, can afford.So what’s the answer?
  • ####Here’s one option. Khan Academy educates 4 million school age students every month via videos and online exercises.That 4 million includes Bill Gates’ kids. Which is why he and Google have pumped $15m into this not for profit. Their aim? A world class education for anyone, anywhere, for free.If that doesn’t scare the life out of every vice chancellor then maybe this might. The investment they received is relatively recent. Most of this scale was achieved with one man recording YouTube videos from a PC in a cupboard in his house.These are school age students but the lesson is the same. Technology enables us to deliver learning to many orders of magnitude more people with many orders of magnitude less cost. So how do universities stay relevant? Here are my five trends they should watch.
  • One of the defining characteristics of value is scarcity. Thanks to the web, facts are no longer scarce.Information taught at University in most practical or even remotely vocational subjects is out of date before the student reaches the workplace. And as we’ve established, they really want university to make them more employable.I heard a great phrase the other day. COGNITIVE PROSTHETICS.Do you know what a cognitive prosthetic is? It’s my smartphone. It can tell me nearly anything I want to know from anywhere in the world.Now imagine my smartphone is instead a set of Google Glasses. What’s the practical difference between me knowing a fact and retrieving it instantaneously from the web?Actually there are lots of differences. Number one I need to know what question to ask. And this becomes about skills: creativity and critical thinking. I need to be able to interpret the data and attribute it with a measure of quality.
  • EDUCATION HACKINGLED BY 21 YEAR OLD DALE J STEPHENSSCEPTICAL OF ANYONE USING MIDDLE INITIALBEHIND THE SELF HELP BS THERE ARE TWO IMPORTANT CONCEPTSBREAK CONTENT INTO BITE-SIZED CHUNKS AND ASSEMBLE IT INTO A CURRICULUM THAT IS PERSONAL TO YOUSUPPORT YOURSELF WITH COACHING AND MENTORINGSTRIP BUILDINGS AND SOCIAL ASPECTS FROM UNIVERSITY AND YOU HAVE A LIBRARY OF BITE-SIZED CONTENT AND AN ARMY OF COACHESUNIVERSITIES COULD DRIVE AND MONETISE EDUCATION HACKING, NOT BE THREATENED BY IT####There’s been a lot of chat about hacking education, largely focused around the creator of UnCollege, Dale J Stephens. Now I’m sceptical of anyone who feels the need to use their middle initial, and actually there’s a lot to be sceptical about here. The guy is only 21 and it shows in his manifesto which is laced with a lot of self-help style nonsense about finding who you are.But it does encompass two concepts that are extremely valuable when thinking about the future of learning.His theory is that a traditional institutional degree comes at rising cost and falling benefit. That might be fair.His response is basically a self-assembled curriculum of life drawn from a variety of sources around the web. This is backed by mentoring and support from a variety of sources.Now if you strip an institution of its physical resources, what it has is a vast library of course content and an army of mentors. Just because these have always come packaged in a (usually residential) degree, doesn’t mean they always have to. You can package everything digitally into bite-sized chunks of audio, video, text and tests. You can offer remote access to teaching resources. And you can do this on a pay as you go model.I don’t think most people are going to jump to a self-governed curriculum that they pick up from home and approach with the help of a rented mentor. Most 18 year olds and frankly most 30 year olds don’t have the gumption. But if you explode your currently monolithic packages out you create a massive opportunity for expansion amongst those that do. For people to choose what courses to assemble into a curriculum and how they want to be supported.
  • ONCE YOU BREAK CONTENT DOWN INTO DIGITAL CHUNKS, DOES IT MATTER IF YOU CONSUME THEM IN THREE CONTINUOUS YEARS?WHY NOT USE THEM WHEN YOU NEED THEM?TAKE CODE ACADEMY.PYTHON FOR MY ROBOTBUSINESS NEEDRESHAPE INTO LIFE-STRUCTURED LEARNING. NOT INSTEAD OF DEGREE NECESSARILY, BUT AS WELL AS####Now if you do this, you also create an opportunity for people to learn WHEN they want to. Are any of you familiar with Code Academy? It’s a series of free, online, bite-sized courses that together stack up into a pretty good guide to basic coding in many of the most popular languages.Now I’m building a robot. Programming this robot required me to learn a language I’ve never used before, Python. So I turned to code academy. Ten quick lessons later and I had grasped the fundamentals of this language. Enough to be able to use other people’s code I found around the web, and hack some bits together to make my robot speak. The whole process took just a few hours.Now does that make me a Python programmer? No. But imagine my need was for work rather than hobby. I’ve got to a certain stage in my career when I need to learn a new programming language in order to complete a project or get a promotion. I turn to code academy and study for three months instead of three hours. I learn all the basics then complete an online test that gives me a certification. I get my promotion.Universities teach Python. They have course materials and tests ready. Many of them are probably digitised. And if you believe what I said in the first slide, their value to undergraduates is limited because of how much the world changes between them learning and putting their learning to use. So why is it Code Academy teaching me Python at the point in my life that I want it, not the University?“How could youth better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?” - Henry David Thoreau
  • THIS PICTURE SHOWS SOMETHING REALLY DUMB HAPPENING. AND I’M NOT SUGGESTING THE EQUATION IS WRONG.IF YOU HAVE SOMEONE WHO IS POSSIBLY THE LEADING RESEARCHER IN THEIR FIELD, WHY HAVE THEM SPEND THEIR TIME WRITING FACTS ON A CHALKBOARD? OVER AND OVER AGAIN?SURELY THIS IS WHAT VIDEO IS FOR?KHAN ACADEMY FLIPS THE LESSON. TEACHERS SPEND TIME TEACHING, NOT PREACHING.TECHNOLOGY IS USED TO CAPTURE AND CIRCULATE LECTURES. STOP BUILDING LECTURE HALLS.###Take a look at this picture and consider objectively how dumb it is.If we’re lucky at university we get taught by some of the leading thinkers in their fields. And they typically spend 50% of their time at the front of a classroom or auditorium telling us things they told a hundred classes before. Repeating facts.Wouldn’t they be more valuable answering questions, coaching students, and engaging with people?There will always be a place for showpiece lecture. But thanks to technology you can now capture and share lectures with great fidelity, very cheaply. So why waste time by getting lecturers to repeat themselves over and over again to students who have struggled through a hangover to be there?One of the really interesting things Khan Academy has done with the schools in which its new programme is piloting is flip the lesson. Now there are no new concepts for kids to learn in the classroom. Their homework is watching videos or reading to try to grasp concepts. In the lesson they do what before might have been homework: the actual exercises to demonstrate and test their understanding of concepts. Now the teacher is on hand to coach them, identify which ones need more help and offer it on the spot, while the more advanced students can carry on to the next concepts at their own pace.Surely this model makes more sense at Universities as well?
  • WHAT GIVES A UNIVERSITY EDUCATION VALUE? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DEGREE FROM CAMBRIDGE AND A DEGREE FROM UCLAN?WHO HAS A BETTER BRAND THAN OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE?OR EVEN, WHICH OF THESE WILL GIVE SOMEONE BETTER EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS?TECHNOLOGY HAS LOWERED THE BARRIERS TO ENTRY. BRAND IS NOW THE BATTLEGROUND. HISTORY AND ACCREDITATION MEAN LITTLE.####I’ve saved until last the rebuttal for what is the most common objection I have seen to many of these proposed changes.Universities are operated on the basis that there is something sacred about the degree. That the combination of history and academic accreditation means that learning for a degree in a university environment confers greater value on the resulting qualification than any other form of study.But does that stack up? If an education is about employment, what gives an old university any advantage against a new market entrant with a stronger brand that might confer upon a graduate a much greater chance of employment?Singularity university is run by Ray Kurzweil, the inventor and futurist. If you read Wired magazine you will have seen the feature in the most recent issue. Singularity University takes place on a Nasa campus and involves some of the brightest people from across the US. It is backed by Google and Microsoft and gets C-level speakers from both.Now what’s going to give you a better chance of getting a job? An MBA from UCLAN. Or 10 weeks spent in the company of the best and brightest from some of the world’s fastest growing companies?If the Financial Times offered an MBA would it be more or less valuable than one from Oxford or Cambridge?There used to be a major barrier to these companies entering the education market: the infrastructure to deliver content and manage a student population was expensive. Even if you did it virtually rather than on a physical campus, it would be incredibly costly and risky. Especially as the market may not be there to take up on it.That internet-savvy market has reached maturity and the costs have dropped to an incredibly low level. At the same time the power of brands has reached a high alongside students need to gain a boost towards employment from their studies.
  • So as always I finish on a quote. This time an optimistic one.I read the other day that
  • The Future of Education

    1. 1. FUTURE OF EDUCATION Teaching and study in the next two decades bookofthefuture
    6. 6. You can't think of another industry where a list of top 10 providers is perfectly correlated to what it was in 1960. Larry Summers
    7. 7. 1500 5.5%
    8. 8. Tech Disrupting All 4 MILLION STUDENTS
    13. 13. BRAND HISTORY
    14. 14. There’s no fate but what we make. The future’s not set. Sarah Connor
    15. 15. Questions? bookofthefuture