Virtual learning is the future, but maybe not in the form that you are experiencing
Disclaimer: the future (normative, not descriptive)
So you are a student like me, “attending school” through Zoom these days like me. If you were also socially awkward like me, you may find this version of education more enjoyable, just like me.
I firmly believe in learning through digital methods, not only since it
can be more inclusive, but also, digital records tend to be lighter in
weight, more searchable, and more editable than their analogue
For example, back in the days when we physically attended school, the contrast of backpack sizes between students from my department vs. students from the law school is astonishing. Each of them constantly carried huge binders, hundreds of index cards, thicc law books, etc. Every time I saw a law student with their bag, I could not help shrinking a little bit inside, and thought how much better would their life be if all those paper were digitised.
Several years ago, I were one of those who carried binders in their arm. What pushed me over the line was when moving out of dorm at my sophomore year, the amount of paper notes and textbooks was devastating. Later that year in my new apartment, I spent the whole summer break scanning every single page, and never created another page of notes.
But virtual learning is more than video chats with the professor and the
In fact, the whole “learn with a class” concept does not appeal to me. While children may need a crowd of companions for forming of social skills, that is not needed as much in learning. Everyone has their own pace, interest and level of acceptance when learning new things, and an arbitrarily imposed “one pace for all” is a pace that suits none.
We all remember the excitement of discovering Khan Academy, one of the most meaningful implication of which is we can provide uniform contents that are required by the curriculum at a dynamic pace, letting each student to adapt their progress in a personal and changeable way, thus make education really for everyone.
This topic also reminds me of Vulcan Learning
from Star Trek, where the whole “class” learns in one room, but each
and every student learns in their own dome with separate screens,
naked-eye augmented reality, and audio equipment, so that they can
choose the pace and contents that suit themselves the most.
Notice how the contents are pre-recorded (here taught by the computer, but can be videos like in Khan Academy), while there are several teachers walking around. This design provides several edges besides decreased need of human resource. First, it prevents the human error that comes with different teachers teaching different classes, because every teacher has their own style, advantages and disadvantages, so that every class ends up with slightly different results even if they fully absorbed what their teacher has taught. Second, the curriculum and the contents can be easily monitored and modified all the time, keeping them always up-to-date, instead of once every couple of years, or even decades. Finally, the present teachers can provide flexible and real-time help that computers may not yet be capable of.
Also, I can easily imagine that if any student has disabilities that prevent them from fully utilising the system, their dome can be easily modified in a way that suits them, without having to consider whether it affects everyone else. More inclusiveness — this should be the prime focus of our education system going into the new decade.
If anyone were to create a new form of education, I think this is it. This is the personalised (therefore inclusive) and future-proof form of education that we as a society should work towards. This is the way of education I wish I were educated, I want my future kids to be educated, and, I hope, can push the human culture to the next level.