What this talk is about - it's called "Education as Platform" - is the idea of exploring some of the experiences we've had with massive open online learning, and exploring some of the criticisms that we've experienced, some of the criticisms that we've seen, and trying to understand what elements of the design are working and what elements of the design are not working, and to use this understanding to try to advance our perspective on the way online learning is proceeding and should proceed.
Now, a couple of caveats, and they're not in the slides, but I do want to bring these out, because George (Siemens) mentioned them a bit. One of the caveats is the idea of education as solving mobility problems, social problems, employment problems, poverty problems, and I think it works the other way around. I don't see education as being the means to solve these problems. I don't think it's an automatic thing. I know it's a really good selling point for education generally and online learning in particular, but I don't think that the root of social problems lies in a lack of education, and I don't think that the solution will be there. (...)
That said, education has a role, and a significant role, in the quality of life that people who are educated can have. A person can be out of poverty and uneducated and have a very poor quality of life, but I think it's very difficult to be educated and to have a poor quality of life. I think education creates ways of seeing, ways of doing, ways of becoming that are not possible otherwise. And these are the things that make a life worth living and make a person willing to work more diligently and more forcefully toward having that life. (...)
There's this thing about education being what is needed in order to get jobs. As though there's enough jobs at the end of it. And I think that's a fallacy. People respond - and this happens in our country - they respond to the doctor shortage by educating more doctors. They say, "this will solve the problem!" But they don't create new doctor positions. And so we've educated a hundred doctors and still have a doctor shortage after because nobody's paying for doctors. (...)
Openness also means that novices and experienced people are able to merge together in the same space and communicate and interact with each other. And this is one of these things that you can do online that you can't really do offline. ...
Stephen Downes (23-3-2012) Education as Platform: The MOOC Experience and what we can do to make it better (post) Half an Hour
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