Thursday, 7 February 2013

Is Robotic Learning Coming?

We just watched this segment of CBS 60 minutes on robotics. Robots are retaking low-skill jobs that were exported out of the US to China. It made us wonder if learning too is following a similar trend through MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses). Productivity increases is in the DNA of US culture. The trends of productivity jumps seem to spread across fields as forest fires.  Learning cannot remain safe in the trend. This also overlaps the global trend of increasing population, which aspires to a developed country’s lifestyle. They will demand learning too of the same quality.

coofluence blog: Is Robotic Learning Coming? Video by CBS 60 Minutes.

Question now will be of degree. How much of the learning process can you automate? Just as Google News may one day end the newspaper delivery person’s job, a teachers job is on the line too. The debate is not that of total elimination of a teacher’s job. That would be framing the debate in extremes. A teacher’s job will be reduced by degrees as more tools take over various functions of a teacher. Familiar suspects are assessments, exercises, in class videos (who has time to verbally recreate the battle between Persians and the Greeks?) and the information part of education.

The trend is not the elimination of a teachers job, but that of shifting more of teaching responsibility into learning responsibility. A new generation of semi-self-learning students is emerging relying on apps, Khan Academy and similar resources. As you absorb more by yourself and use peer learners or web-based forums to get initial doubts cleared while testing yourself all the time, you have reduced a traditional teachers’ many functions.