Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The future of education is diversity

learn by Mark Brannan, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by Mark Brannan

There are a lot of articles about the future of education/schools/universities full of claims and counter-claims about exactly which technology or method will prevail. I think the answer is that education and learning will take place in a wide variety of settings from traditional classrooms to virtual worlds and in many modes from independent self-study to small collaborative projects to massive online courses. In the past education was more limited to face-to-face meetings at set times or to correspondence courses with long response times. Today there are so many options available to satisfy all preferences. MOOCs are not going to replace regular university courses, they simply add new options and new arenas for learning for those who learn well in that type of setting.

There are plenty innovative platforms for learning. One such that has just caught my attention is the London based site The Amazings. The idea here is that people with a passion for a practical skill can offer classes to anyone in the area via the site. The focus is on older people (over 50) being able to offer their knowledge and skills to the community and earn money for it. These classes, workshops and courses range from £15 to £140 and are all face to face sessions in the London area though they plan to expand to other cities as demand increases. The teachers are not necessarily qualified but are all enthusiasts who want to share their knowledge. Classes take place in all sorts of places but never in a classroom. Their tone is refreshingly honest and hype-free:

"Who are the classes for?
Anyone who wants to learn but hates formality. We want to make learning more fun, more friendly, more social, and more personal. If you want certificates or diplomas, keep on walking. If you're interested in learning for its own sake, we've probably got a class for you."

Read more about the Amazings in an article in the IndependentMeet the Amazings! Keeping knowledge alive. Here's a short video that presents one of the courses, how to play steel drums:

At present there are very few online courses in the Amazings but a similar service that has been around a while now, Skillshare, offers a wide range of online informal courses as well as face-to-face sessions in various cities (mostly in the USA).

People helping other people to learn, online, in person, anywhere, any time. If you can't meet physically you meet online. It's all about people communicating, helping, learning. There is no best method, no killer app, no disruption. It's about diversity, choice and flexibility.


  1. I agree with you. The future of education has lot of hidden diversities in it. With the help of education only a person can improve his skills and go ahead in life.
    --Francois Sainfort

  2. Virtual classrooms and virtual study groups with live video avatars in real time could bridge the face to face personal connection gap. A company called IVN has live video avatar software (Silhouette) that puts people in virtual worlds as live images with associated synchronized audio. With Silhouette, each user in a virtual world is able to see and be seen as a live streaming video avatar in real time. This heightened sense of presence and realism would facilitate more effective instruction and social networking. Silhouette would allow each online student to connect to and feel present in a real school type atmosphere and educational community, as well as establish "real time" face-to-face relationships with other classmates, as well as with their respective teachers.

    A proof of concept demo of Silhouette is available at