The 3 Biggest Ways Technology Is Disrupting Education Forever

Digital education is today where digital music was in 2001. The digital music revolution started unintended when peer-to-peer file service “Napster” started by Sean Parker & Shawn Fanning in 1999 controversially morphed into a digital music sharing service.

It became mainstream with the highly successful launches of the Apple iPod & iTunes in 2001 and now services like Spotify are taking it to next level by integrating it to our increasingly digital lifestyle. As is the case of all life-changing trends, an unintended start changed the whole experience of buying and consuming music.

I enjoy being part of the generation caught in between a massive revolution (Digital ImmigrantsDigital Natives). It is fascinating to see how technology is becoming so pervasive that it is re-disrupting cultures all over again. As in the case of digital music, the most fundamental driving force to this change is the Internet. The Internet has fundamentally boosted our ability to access and share knowledge.

The Internet has allowed us to re-imagine everything from reading a book to digesting the news to taking notes. Quite fittingly, the next big trend is going to be the disruption of education.

There’s been a long-time joke in education: if Rip Van Winkle woke up today, he’d be puzzled by just about every aspect of modern life–from planes to tablets –but he’d feel right at home in many classrooms. Now that’s starting to change in a big way.

Education has two challenges: access and effectiveness. It all started relatively quietly with Bill Gates’ favorite teacher Salman Khan’s YouTube channel, followed by highly successful “A.I. Class” experiment of Stanford University where over 160,000 enrolled from 190 countries. Here are a few other disruptive things happening right now that will changed education as we know it.


At the forefront we have Udacity, EdX, and Coursera (the “Big Three?”) that work with leading American universities to offer free online courses known as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC’s. Just in matter of months they have reached two million registered students from roughly over 200 countries. Students in MOOC’s typically watch short video lectures, complete automatically graded tests or assignments, and use online communities to work through concepts they don’t understand. MOOC’s mission is to make the world’s best academic programs accessible to masses for free.

Online Degrees

Led by 2tor, known to be most-funded education startup, there are hosts of private technology companies are on the mission of taking campuses online. They work with physical campuses to convert the courses offered in digital format so that they can be delivered online. They offer to reduce the cost of education and make the universities universally accessible.

Social Learning

Led by Edmodo, Schoology and Lore this is the most active space. The idea here is to apply modern social web technology to enhance effectiveness and management of in campus delivery of education. Most of these products have seen very large-scale adoption in the recent past and some of these are on the way to emerge as the integral part of formal education.

To me these initiatives will drive in some very fundamental change in the education. In addition to these there is a lot more happening, which I shall cover in subsequent articles. The fact is the Web’s infrastructure is built, the platforms have emerged, everyone is connected on social networks and open education resources are available everywhere; we now need to connect the dots and create a meaningful digital learning ecosystem in a way that augurs well with the digital life style of today’s learner.


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  2. Kajal Sengupta

    September 3, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Online education can work wonders for students who otherwise do not have access to quality education. Just pause and think what could be the impact on the mind of a student sitting in a remote corner and listening to the lectures given by the best in the world . he would not have imagined ever to sit in a class which is beyond his reach.

  3. JulesNN

    September 4, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Then there are the free on-line webinars where digital technology is making it possible for experts and research students to present their work worldwide. Depending on how well publicized, the audiences can be in the hundreds, presenting questions that critique or improve their presenters’ products and approaches. This is increasingly becoming a very attractive option for those supporting doctoral fellows in research institutions where getting participants to attend seminars is a becoming a very daunting assignment, especially due to time pressure on target audiences. The webinars also make it possible for the presentation, question and answer sessions to be extended for days beyond the standard 1-hour event, facilitating those who cannot be able to participate when the primary event takes place.

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  7. Manish Reddy

    December 27, 2012 at 4:54 am

    Without a doubt websites like Coursera and Udacity will be the future of online course content. Having used Coursera for a couple of months now, I can see why Indian government is trying hard to bring a lost cost tablet to schools and colleges. With these tablets we don’t need a great or even good teachers in every school/college. Great content can be created and distributed with ease. Even in India all Indian Institutes of Technologies are trying to create content by recording videos in classrooms. Soon there won’t be shortage of textbooks/teachers in future. One will be truly experience the potential of online education once quality devices are easily accessible to masses.

    Assuming the problem of availability of great content will be solved, comes the need to discuss. Discuss what we have learnt and what we are currently learning, with people who learning the same thing. Social networks would not serve the purpose as they are already filled with a lot of non-educational content. There is a lot of scope in bridging this gap. As we can already see a few startups have already started tring to solve this problem. Hope one of them succeed in doing this.

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