Internet revolution makes education wider open 誰にも開かれる教育 ―インターネットがもたらす革命―


There are 61 million children across the world who have no access to education, according to a new survey by “World Vision Japan”, a Tokyo-based NGO. It says that 996 million adults are illiterate worldwide, accounting for about a seventh of the world population. A number of factors leave so many children unable to get education. Those include poverty, short food supplies, internal conflicts, a shortage of teachers, etc.




In such situation, the Internet may bring about a revolution to education. E-learning, the online learning service based on information and communication technology, is rapidly becoming popular in keeping with the explosive spread of the Internet. Widely known among such services is the one provided by Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization founded by Indian educator Salman Khan and supported by U.S.-based search engine Google and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The academy launched its educational site with the aim of “providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere”. A wide spectrum of people from elementary schoolers to adults regularly access this site that offers all from elementary to college courses. Every participant can get learning opportunities he or she may need. That means anyone who has Internet access can get education.





Top-class courses available online /世界トップクラスの大学の講義もオンラインで


The spread of e-learning has prompted universities to push reforms in a bid to make their courses available online. The move has been boosted by iTunes U released by Apple in 2007. Prominent universities across the world such as Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford already offer some of their courses at iTunes U. From Japan, it has been joined by Tokyo, Kyoto, Waseda, Keio and Chuo universities.




Coursera is another online education service similar to iTunesU. Founded in 2012 by a Stanford University professor, it is one of what is generally known as MOOCs (massive open online courses). University of Tokyo also takes part in this scheme. One of differences between iTunesU and Coursera is that the latter sets a preliminary deadline and a final deadline for some of its assignments while the former has none. Students can get marks up to full 100 points by returning their assignments by the preliminary deadline and up to 80 points by doing so by the final deadline. Coursera also gives midterm and final exams in which students evaluate each other. So they can use it not just as a forum to take courses but as an arena for interactive online learning. Students can finally get a diploma upon clearing a specified mark. The diploma has not been officially recognized by countries yet, but it surely gives them a motivation to take courses.






Now that such courses have become accessible on the Internet, education is no more limited to a handful of selected persons. Knowledge is open to anyone who has Internet access and English literacy skills. This may imply that someone with no university degrees come out with genius inventions. The days may come when degrees do not count as much as they do now.




(Written by: Masashi Takinose)