Posted by: crudbasher | July 10, 2012

Higher Education For The World

As of 2010, 95.48% of the population of the world do not live in the United States. It can be safely said that 100% of the people of the world will need to learn things in order to survive and thrive. It is also pretty widely accepted that the US has some of the best universities in the world. Countries send their best and brightest here to be educated but the vast majority of the world’s population will never get higher education, much less of US quality. Doesn’t this seem to be a market waiting to be tapped?

With all that in mind, let’s look at the following: (H/T Gizmodo)

In a blog post today, AT&T SVP for technology and network operations John Donovan made the official announcement that the API for Watson (the company’s proprietary voice-recognition software that transcribes spoken words into text) are now open to and available for app developers to access.  

If you recall, Watson is a software system where you can ask questions and it will provide answers. (It beat the Jeopardy champions.) In the article above it also mentions that the system has 10 million questions and answers ready to go. An API (for the non programmers out there) is a way of one software system to use another as a service. As an example, if you have a LMS system, it could automatically scan your lessons and use Watson to link to additional resources. Or else, there could be an Ask Watson input where students could ask a question about the lesson and get additional information. With an API this can be built right into the LMS.

Since this operates with just text, doing realtime translation into many languages is also pretty straightforward. Most people in education take certain things for granted. For example, it is pretty much common knowledge that in order for education to happen you need a teacher. I would agree as long I can amend that with the following:

  1. Education and learning aren’t the same thing.
  2. Education is defined as a teacher imparting information to students.
  3. A teacher doesn’t have to be human.

I am becoming more and more convinced that this decade will see a massive worldwide improvement in learning efficacy outside of school. The desire to learn is fundamental in the human spirit. Sir Ken Robinson says (I’m paraphrasing) “Children are born very creative. We then educate their creativity out of them.”

The amazing innovation happening on the Internet is global by it’s very nature. Therefore if you are an education reformer here is my message to you: In the Internet age, if your education reform ideas don’t work on a global scale you are doing it wrong.



  1. Nice read !!
    On to the same note…i would like to share my experience, of attending a workshop which focused on new approach of learning and education,and it dramatically changed my perceptions for education.
    Have some glimpse of that here:

    I would like to get reviews from u 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on JE Baugh and commented:
    Great. Thought-provoking article on the education of the world’s masses…

  3. […] I came across this excellent video from Daphne Koller which goes into detail about how about how the  Coursera system works for Massive Open Online Courses. What is fascinating to me is how they are taking advantage of the online nature of the medium. What I mean is that even though you are one of a 100,000 students, you can progress at your own pace with embedded assessments. As I have mentioned, I believe any solutions for online education must work on a global scale. This one does. (see Higher Education For The World) […]

  4. […] I still believe that if you want come up with a solution for online learning, a defining characteristic is it has to be global in scope. Interestingly the third world is one of the biggest users of MOOCs. That’s because they have never had access to this kind of knowledge. The effects will start to be felt in about a decade. (see Higher Education For The World) […]

  5. […] am convinced that any future learning system will have to work on a global scale. It will also have to be personalized for each student. In order for this to happen, most of the […]

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