The It's Good blog has a short story on Daphne Koller's recent Ted talk about Coursera. The writer makes the following argument about online education:
- Online education makes it possible to offer a "top quality education to everyone around the world for free."
- Which goes a long way toward "making education a fundamental human right"
- Which may make 'lifelong long learning the norm"
- .... and paves "the way for a new era of innovation"
Nice argument with many themes I support. Only one problem...education does not produce innovation. Innovation is brought about by access to information. Yes, one needs to be literate to interpret information but access to information is equally important to spawn innovation. The computing device connected to the Internet and all its information is more powerful than the "top quality education" in spawning innovation.
Innovation is defined as the commercialization of invention. Neither commercialization nor invention requires a top quality education, as evidenced by the very large number of entrepreneurs without such an education. However, every entrepreneur started with access to the information that enabled them to draw the insight which spawned their commercial venture (Kirzner).
I occassionally teach and lecture at some of the highest quality educational institutions in the U.S. I obviously believe in such a high level of education. However, I believe that access to information through connected computing devices combined with basic literacy training may be a more effective way to help the greatest number of people in the world.
One might also suggest that this view contradicts the premises of OLPC. I would point out that the 4Cs and the 300 Sugar educational apps on the XO laptop are provided at no marginal cost. Basic literacy and access to information are necessary but a higher quality education at little or no marginal cost is the ideal, which of course is the attractiveness of online education.