Getting Education Without Going To University

Hu Naiyu discusses modern educational mode in the 3.0 Era.

Getting Education Without Going To University

The topic of “Schools ushering in 3.0 Era” has been brought into focus in the past few years, leading numerous teachers and students to reflect on how traditional schools should be reformed from the perspective of education model transformation. More and more establishments are signing up for Internet enlightenment, and its effects are spreading all across the world, leading students from all walks of life to close their exercise books and open their laptops.

AI’s impact on human society is irreversible that is expected to revolutionize humans’ lifestyle by 2050. By 2050, there will be 10 billion robots coexisting with humans on the earth, and they will be more deeply involved in all aspects of humans’ life. By then, there will be a wide range of challenges our humankind has to confront including law and morality, classic theory, economic forms, social norms, and technological limits that are likely to experience breakthrough. Lifestyle has been totally changed contributing to diverse learning approaches so we have to think, how can the teaching ways be transformed accordingly and what kinds of new features will the future school adopt?

From the perspective of traditional education, people are regarded as machines so that teaching activities are just like the process of producing and remolding. If the approach of traditional education is not challenged, students will find it difficult adapting to the future workplace and thereby struggling to live a happier, more enjoyable and creative life.

- Zhang Zhi (director of Shanghai educational technology center)

According to his initiative, ideal model of schools in 3.0 era should have following characteristics:

  • Each student will have a digital profile in light of the continuous data collection of his or her learning activities since the first day he or she is enrolled and this digital profile will be constantly updated through the individual’s growth.

  • Every teacher will have an AI assistant instead of a real one.

  • Each subject is interwoven with a knowledge map.

  • Each teaching task is likely to be outsourced. In the future, the workload of school principals will be significantly lightened, that is, they just need to evaluate and select the services providers.

  • Each teaching task is likely to be outsourced. In the future, the workload of school principals will be significantly lightened, that is, they just need to evaluate and select the services providers.

  • Every school is a part of the overall virtual school similar to the concept of Cloud Classroom. In the future, almost all the physical schools will launch the campus’ digital mapping in the virtual school.

  • All the learning activities will be recorded. People used to read books and now “read the screen”. Screen reading not only refers to transform the text into pictures or stream media but also interpret and better serve each learner through the analysis of eye movements, expression changes, internet operating behaviors and results.

  • Each learner’s learning tasks are personalized. Thanks to the advanced technology, every student will be assigned different homework according to their level of knowledge mastery which is difficult to achieve relying on traditional education.

  • The length of schooling for each student will be flexible.

  • Every legitimate approach to learning will be admitted.

  • Education will focus on collaboration and symbiosis. Future schools should be learning-centered communities and students will see each other as collaborators instead of competitors.

  • Each family will form a unique educational unit.

  • Every piece of educational equipment tends to be intelligent.

  • Every school will embrace a hidden curriculum such as museums, sports games, and film festivals. Future schools must place great emphasis on the design of this so-called hidden curriculum.

In fact, some of these 13 scenarios have already existed and some still in the process. The whole world is changing rapidly. While ushering in 3.0 era, schools will be marked by individuation and innovation. If the amount of learning resources and research facilities can be opened up more wildly, international students who can access over the Internet will obtain new possibilities to pursue studies all over the globe. Granting students the freedom and flexibility to learn about the subjects that interest them is an inspiring way to get students to really follow in-depth studies on areas important to them, either to satisfy an academic interest or to give them the building blocks they need for the careers they want in the future.

It cannot be denied that advances in technology offer the potential to expand access to education. Especially in the background the COVID-19 pandemic it seems that online education is inevitable for students. If we don’t embrace massive amounts of information keep pace with the innovation we will be fallen behind. However, the upcoming revolution of educational system has raised a doubt -- does it mean that online learning will ever replace the need for teachers?

There are sceptics who claim that there must be a reason why traditional education can last for so long in history. They stick to the believe that traditional education is effective enough and easier for students to accept since it has existed for centuries. What is the point of changing and overturning something that is almost perfect after several times of reformations? Why bothering creating a new model that has never put into practice? Tradition reflects the archive of wisdom of humanity all the time.

Furthermore, online education deprives students of their right to create a community that connected them to the external world. The point of education is never just about academia. It is about getting more experience and taking useful life lessons. In university, students learn from each other by eating together, reading together, conversing together, creating the opportunity of communicating and socializing. In this process, they learn not just the abstract knowledge from lectures, but also learn to deal with issues that they might come across in the future. Besides university life, contact in class is fairly important in higher education. There are brilliant and smart students who manage to have great interaction with the professor in class but fail in written works. There are students who always get nervous in class and even shake when giving a presentation. What they need is specific feedback and encouragement. This is what they can achieve only in a real university environment, in face-to-face classes. In these cases it is obvious that online education is failing them.

Another underlying point is quite astonishing. Many people might assume that online education costs less so that more students could get access to more resources with less money. The fact is that the real situation is totally the opposite. The cost of creating content for one course can be as high as 3000 dollars and in the short term there is no evidence that platforms like MOOCs will lower the tuition of their online courses. Even one of the founders of MOOCs Sebastian Thrun has said:

We were on the front page of newspapers and magazines. At the same time I was realizing we don’t educate people as others wished or as I wished. We have a lousy product.

If so, taking online education, to a large extent, might mean spending more money while receiving less experiences.

When asked about if we still need to go to school for education, Zhang Zhi answered:

Yes. Attending school is for communication, and exchanging ideas is for verification which can help us know ourselves. People cannot be taught but need to be guided to find the true self.

High-tech is truly a double-edged sword. It benefits us in some cases, while deprives us of freedom in other ones. It is hard to say what will happen to the educational system in the near future. How to balance the relation between traditional and modern mode of education? Will students depend more on online education or will they maintain the traditional style? Time will show the answer.

Text by

Naiyu Hu