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By 6 May 2014 | Categories: feature articles

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In the age of the internet, as innovation and technology continue to push society ever forward, education has not been resting on its laurels, changing in its own exciting, sometimes weird way.

1. Crowdsourced lessons

With the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo illustrating the benefits of crowdsourcing, we shouldn’t be too surprised that the crowdsourcing trend has made its mark, by providing digital lessons to students who need a little extra help outside the classroom.

Indeed, online, crowdsourced digital lessons library, Learning Bird, along with the likes of Khan Academy, indicate that crowdsourced extra lessons are certainly a trend worth watching out for. Learning Bird, which is one of the newer entries into crowdsourced learning, currently boasts 7 000 lessons and 3 000 teachers, just in its test area of New York, Texas and Quebec alone. The trend though offers a win-win for those struggling with a particular subject, and teachers seeking to supplementtheir income, alike.

In a little twist, teachers’ lessons, which can include worksheets and video, can be graded by their viewers if the student likes their teaching style.


2. Are we (virtually) there yet?

In the not so distant future, the use of modern-day virtual reality (VR) headsets are also expected to make their mark on education, and are already benefiting from serious investment this time seeing the technology come to fruition. Indeed, Facebook’s substantial acquisition of Oculus Rift made it clear that it is a technology being taken very seriously, and Mark Zuckerberg has stressed that the company considers Oculus Rift attractive not just for entertainment purposes, but education as well.

For example, one of the possible uses of the technology according to Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey, is enabling students to take an educational trip to Rome or journey back in time and explore the Giza pyramids, without so much as setting foot on a rowdy bus, or having to hop into a time travelling machine.

VR technology could just as easily be used to host virtual study sessions with other students from around the world. Given that Facebook recently acquired Oculus Rift, expect strong social features to be merged with virtual education.


3. If you build it…

Also stirring potentials and possibilities in the field of education is the technology of 3D printing itself, particularly when you consider how 3D printers are already being used. At Virginia Tech, students are using the technology to produce 3D vehicles (specifically, drones), while Connecticut students at Renbrook School are experimenting with the possibilities 3D printers provide, printing parts to fix broken items.

The idea behind incorporating 3D printers into classrooms is twofold.Firstly, it enables students to conceptualise and design their idea for a product and then produce it on the spot. This means they can quickly and test their idea to see whether it works, or whether they need to go back to the drawing board. This kind of hands-on, real-world interactive learning is a far cry from simply reading about manufacturing processes, or memorising facts about other people’s ideas.


4. Send in the Polymaths

Instead of necessarily going to university to get a degree, in the near future, budding entrepreneurs and innovators may rather turn to higher education to complete a project as the demand arises. As just one example, this is the vision of the online Polymath University, where students can learn what they desire and need to fulfill an objective, rather than having to fulfil the requirements of completing a major in order to get a degree.

What’s more, the institute also intends offering a start-up incubator, enabling students to use coursework to bring their idea to life and then to the world at large.

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