The Internet has transformed many facets of knowledge production and distribution, from journalism to the music industry. Education is also in the early stages of a fundamental reconfiguration. Traditionally, education was provided from a fixed place and was limited to certain geographical locations. But now online education has caused a massive surge in the education industry.
The online education market in India alone stands at USD 247 million and is estimated to witness an 8X growth over the next 5 years to reach to USD 1.96 billion mark in 2021.
Today, education must be collaborative and interactive. Teachers are making drastic changes to the way they approach instruction, with technology in the classroom playing a major role. Digital Transformation positively impacts student learning by opening a world of endless possibilities and collaboration.
Digital transformation is creating a world of difference by rethinking the digital tools that are used in the classroom. Digital tools are driving new levels of collaboration and innovation to create a campus of endless learning possibilities.
Table of Contents
- Economies of Scale and Superbroadcasting
- Digital Networks and Peer-to-Peer Education
- Difficulties of Scale and Hybrid Models
- New Limitations
4.1 Internet Access
4.3 Control over architectures and standards
4.5 Control over intellectual property
- Competition with Incumbents, Accreditation, and Government Regulation
- The Changing Role of Amateurs and Professionals in Digital Education
People have been going to schools in buildings in close proximity. This is largely because students travel to a specific geographic location, they normally have to live within a relatively close area to their schools or else they have to live within the school itself. In this traditional approach, the number of students is limited by the number of people who can fit into the buildings and by the number of individual schoolrooms within the buildings.
Space puts an upper limit on the number of students any single teacher can teach. Education under these conditions lacks economies of scale. As the student population increases, schools need to increase the number of teachers as well.
The digitally networked environment frees education from its traditional spatial and temporal limitations. A traditional model of education is a broadcast model, in which an expert teacher provides instruction to a group of students. The mode of communication is one-to-many. Digital networks offer alternatives to this model of one-to-many education.
At the same time, they also extend and amplify it. That is because digital networks offer economies of scale for certain forms of education but not for others. When people exploit these economies of scale, the traditional broadcast model becomes a super-broadcast model.
There are many advantages to this type of model.
First, using digital networks means that geography no longer has an effect on the number of students that a teacher can reach. Students and teachers do not have to be in the same location for the teacher to communicate with the students. Teachers can speak to an indefinite number of students.
Therefore, an indefinite number of students can take the same class. Second, educational institutions do not need to invest in buildings to set up additional classes, or offices in which teachers work and plan lessons. Potentially, this lowers costs because fewer and fewer teachers can do the work whereas previously many teachers were required.
Moreover, educational institutions do not need to ration space and time as they do in traditional school buildings. Third, educators do not need to schedule classes like programs on a television network. Students can play videos or access websites twenty-four hours a day. They can experience education at any place and at any time, in any order.
Related: A Roadmap for Digital Transformation
Digital networks also facilitate many-to-many or peer-to-peer education. People can learn through using social media such as Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr, and in multiplayer gaming environments. Social media, including gaming environments, provide platforms for intellectual exploration, the exchange of ideas, and the communal construction of projects.
Students can get significant feedback from their peers using social media, and they can learn skills by building things together. These media do not require that participants be located in the same geographic space.
Using social media, students can educate themselves and each other. For example, gaming environments, properly designed, can give student opportunities to explore, build, and develop skills without constant input from or intervention by teachers.
Just as some forms of education are more geographically bounded and labor-intensive than others, some forms of education may make better use of social media-based digital education than others. Online environments may be particularly useful in disciplines in which students can work together to solve problems and in situations in which education arises from a repeated process of teamwork, mutual influence, and collaboration.
Digital networks facilitate both one-to-many and many-to-many models of digital education. Students may require close supervision in some subjects and interaction and exchange with their teachers. In such situations, teacher expertise and guidance are especially important.
Forms of education that require close supervision and considerable teacher-student interaction may continue to thrive in the digital age precisely because they cannot be effectively duplicated online. One-to-many and many-to-many forms of digital education may crowd out more traditional labor-intensive approaches precisely because economies of scale make the former less expensive.
A great advantage of Digital Transformation of Education is that this offers the possibility of hybrid models, combining traditional labor-intensive models of teacher-pupil interaction with one-to-many and many-to-many digital models. Tasks formerly performed by a single teacher such as lecturing, leading discussions, supervising work, answering questions, grading can be broken down into separate tasks and performed by different actors.
Although digital networks seem to remove limitations on access to education, new limitations on access to education emerge in the digital age, while other limitations, which already existed, become increasingly salient. Here are some new limitations that have arisen along with technology.
The first limitation is Internet access, a special case of the problem of the digital divide. Limited Internet access affects both the number of people who can gain access to digital education and the media that can be used. Cell phone use may be widespread, even in rural areas, but in many places, broadband access is both rare and comparatively expensive.
To the extent that digital education relies on bandwidth-intensive video and multimedia programming, many students around the world may not have effective access. If they have only low-bandwidth access, they must rely primarily on text-based systems.
The second limitation is language. Language replaces geography as a major barrier to educational access. Schools can reach students all over the world as long as these students understand the language in which instruction is offered.
The third important limitation is control over architectures and standards. Especially when it involves multimedia, online education requires technological standards and platforms for producing and displaying content and facilitating communication and interaction among students and instructors.
The fourth limitation is scalability. As we have seen, only some aspects of education are successfully scalable online. Other elements are likely to be labor-intensive and costly. The growth of digital educational enterprises will depend on the degree to which they can lower the cost of these labor-intensive elements or avoid responsibility for providing them.
The fifth limitation is control over intellectual property. A vast amount of information is available for free on the Internet or is available for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons license. Incumbent institutions already use this material to supplement their courses. Some colleges and universities allow public access to lectures and teaching materials.
State accreditation and regulation will likely prove important factors in the growth and development of digital education. To the extent that online enterprises scale and can provide educational services at a lower cost, they pose a competitive threat to existing forms of education.
People who seek vocational or specialized education may choose less expensive forms of online education. This will put competitive pressure on the market for educational services offered by traditional institutions, which often require considerable investments in tuition and time and force students to assume large amounts of long-term debt.
For online educational alternatives to succeed, people will have to treat online degrees and certificates as valuable credentials in the same way that they treat degrees and certificates from incumbent institutions. The most obvious path to making these credentials valuable is to have them officially recognized by the state.
Online education does more than compete with incumbent educational institutions. It also challenges existing systems of state accreditation, which shape and limit the institutions that participate in the market for educational services.
The digitally networked environment offers traditional educational institutions the possibility of reaching large numbers of people outside the academy. Many educational institutions have begun to place lectures, lecture notes, and outlines online for consumption by the general public.
This blurs the traditional boundaries between teaching, public service, and community relations. Professional educators face new competition for the attention and influence over their students. Some of this competition comes from other professionals, whose views and opinions are now more easily accessible to students.
These aspects of digital education challenge professional control and limits to the competition that traditional educational institutions have enjoyed. Even more than journalism or the music industry, education relies heavily on the authority of professional judgments and professional expertise.
The authority of professional educators has been premised on the idea that educational professionals, because of their training and vocation, can be trusted to produce knowledge and convey valuable and truthful information. Digital networks put pressure on these assumptions and allow more people to challenge professional educational hierarchies. Students can seek nontraditional organizations for education.
Digital networks do more than alter the practices of educational institutions. With Digital Transformation of Education, these networks can do more than put incumbent institutions into competition with online enterprises and informal peer-to-peer education. They do more than just blur the boundaries between education and entertainment. Instead, Edutainment, an amalgamation of education and entertainment is opening the doors to think ahead.
Digital networks disaggregate the practices of education into multiple tasks that might be performed by many different actors. They transform professional assumptions and ideas about knowledge production and acquisition, and they reintegrate education into the public sphere. Digital networks, in short, cause us to rethink what education is, how we perform it, who participates in it, and what we want from it.
The Digital Transformation of Education, Jack M. Balkin, Julia Sonneven