Reports of the education sector's imminent demise appear to
have been a little exaggerated.
Over the last decade, the internet has disrupted the media, music and
retail industries in ways no one could have imagined. And now with the
rise of massive open online courses – free courses in just about
everything – offered by the world's most prestigious universities,
many people are wondering if TAFE, uni and private colleges
in Australia will start going out of business in the way that
newspapers, record companies and book stores have been. What does this
change really mean for the education sector?
Human beings are social animals
Yes, you could conceivably learn how an engine works by doing a
series of online tutorials, but most people still find it more
effective and enjoyable to learn from a human being surrounded by
fellow students. For decades, we've been able to learn skills such as
playing a musical instrument or speaking a foreign language from
books, CDs, videos and DVDs – and plenty have – but the large majority
of us still prefer learning from and alongside other people.
There's more to an education than technical knowledge
While online resources are good for learning some things, which is
exactly why educational institutions have enthusiastically embraced
the opportunities thrown up by the internet, there are many skills you
simply can't develop sitting in front of a laptop. For example, if you
want to acquire vital workplace skills such as working effectively as
part of a group or verbally communicating your ideas, you need to be
interacting face to face with others.
Someone still needs to hand out the credentials
How comfortable would you be having your brakes fixed by someone who
hasn't had to pass any exams? How about being operated on by someone
who tells you, "No, I never went to medical school but, relax,
I've watched a lot of YouTube videos of surgical procedures"? For
society to function, it's necessary for someone to provide a way for
the general public to determine whether those they are dealing with
are properly trained and competent. Educational institutions, through
the awarding of degrees, diplomas and certificates, will continue to
play a major role in doing that for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately for both teachers and students, reports of the education
sector's imminent demise appear to have been a little exaggerated –
there will be bricks-and-mortar educational institutions for a long
time to come.