The internet makes world-class education available to anyone with a connected device these days, particularly if you want to study technology.
From Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science to Coursera’s Advanced Computer Vision with TensorFlow, free course offerings run the gamut from beginner to expert.
But where to begin?
Students don’t need more content, they need curation and a framework to guide them through the maze of available courses so that they spend their time wisely, building up useful knowledge that will translate into a career.
That kind of approach is beginning to appear at schools that marshal existing resources into skill-centric programmes designed to help students land a job. At Utah’s Mountain Heights Academy teachers sort through open source materials, align them with state standards and create an open source curriculum to meet student needs.
Leadership Public Schools also use open-source materials and California’s High Tech High, a network of 11 California charter schools, offer students in grades K-12 project-based learning based on open source material.
An operating system of education
Private education companies are catching on. My company, Silicon-Valley based Holberton, for example, started as a sort of software engineering bootcamp, and, based on that success, has segued into creating what we call an operating system (OS) of education.
The content is already out there; what students need is structure and guidance.
An OS of education is a set of tools that enable organisations, whether they be online certification programmes and training centres or accredited universities, to quickly create courses or curricula on their own.
“The trend that you’re seeing now is that the organisations offering openly licensed materials are recognising that, for the material to be useful, they need to come with the things like assessments and assignments,” said David Wiley, who helped found Mountain Heights Academy and is chief academic officer at Lumen Learning, which sells personalised courseware in conjunction with open content that it offers for free.
OS of education tools can include a student management platform, student calendar management, project-based learning methodologies, live streaming capabilities, auto-grading systems and content delivery platforms. Each organisation has different needs and might use a different set of tools in different ways.
It’s more than a learning management system, such as Google Classroom, Moodle or Canvas. Holberton’s OS, for example, uses a collaborative project-based methodology, presenting students with a series of projects, which they are encouraged to work through communally.
You don’t even need teachers – the curated readings and videos are enough. Some programmes using Holberton resources have experts or mentors on hand to offer advice when students get stuck.
The system is designed to draw on expert advisors and former students to tailor curricula that fit industry demand. Holberton, for example, has recently expanded its machine-learning team to meet the yawning talent gap as the global economy adopts artificial intelligence (AI).
Professional skills training
The team-based project approach, meanwhile, is well suited to teaching students professional skills. Increasingly, employers are dropping the requirement of a college degree and are looking at student portfolios instead.
“The real magic in an educational program like this is in the project design,” said Michael Feldstein, CEO of Empirical Educator Project and publisher of e-Literate, an online journal about higher education. “Finding relevant content is the easy part.”
Automated grading systems allow assessment of student projects accurately, instantly and at scale. Our OS includes a Zoom-like web streaming tool specifically designed for software engineering students to collaborate on live coding.
The OS of education concept involves full package offerings for schools to deliver project-based and software-led education. After six years building out this concept, we unbundled the OS offering to meet different kinds of needs in different geographies and economies.
Our tools are training software engineers in nearly 20 schools across nine countries and are accessible to any education institution, company, country or workforce development agency so that they can build their own training programmes to fit local needs.
The assumption of 19th century education was that building a student’s knowledge base is everything. But, today, with the biggest library that has ever existed at everyone’s fingertips (the internet), skills are what matter. The OS of education approach shifts 90% to 95% of a typical student’s time to applied learning. Content is not the problem. Learning how to learn is the future of education.
Julien Barbier is co-founder of the software engineering education company, Holberton. Holberton has just announced that it has raised US$20 million in Series B funding which will be used to accelerate the global expansion of its network of campuses and the delivery of the ‘OS of education’ to universities and training centers around the world.
Copy of the article published on University World News