Monday, May 14, 2012

Online Education and the Super Flynn Effect

 Dominic Basulto /11:53 AM ET, 05/10/2012

Will free online classes offered by universities such as Harvard and Stanford contribute to a Super Flynn Effect? (Shamus Ian Fatzinger)

Last fall, Stanford began offering online courses taught by the likes of Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. Last month, ideas conference TED announced that it was unlocking its TED Talks videos and encouraging educators to mash them up with YouTube videos as part of their TED-ed initiative. Last week, Harvard and MIT unveiled edX: the chance to study courses from two of the nation’s most prestigious universities via the Internet. So, here’s the question: Are we at the start of a brave new era of higher education and rapidly accelerating intelligence?

Even before these wildly innovative offerings ...  educators had already noticed one of the most interesting long-term trends in recent history — a substantial and long-term increase in IQ scores in nearly every part of the world. [snip]

If we are already in the midst of a long-term, global trend towards superior intelligence, is it possible that we could be ready to experience , for lack of a better term, a Super Flynn Effect brought on by online education?

Not only are people getting smarter, but now they are also all taking courses from Ivy League professors and learning about artificial intelligence from the brightest minds in Silicon Valley. Thanks to the Internet, anybody in the world can have access to information formerly provided only to a very tiny elite.

That’s certainly cause for optimism. The spotlight is currently on higher education, with discussion and debate about the spiraling costs and concerns about the future burdens of student loans. Now, it looks like the nation’s top universities are willing to experiment with new, highly distributed models for delivering the educational experience. [snip]

Of course, there’s no sure thing when it comes to online education. We’ve been hearing about the promise of online education and distance learning for years. The promise has almost always come up short in the past, with some skeptics arguing that an online education will never be a match for a hands-on, real-world learning environment. [snip].

Yet, it’s certainly heartening to believe in a Super Flynn Effect — to believe in the entire world getting smarter at the same time. Given all of the other unique online learning tools out there — most notably Khan Academy — it certainly appears as if the world of online education is one of the richest, most innovative fields out there these days. [snip].

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