The Impact of Online Learning in Rural Areas
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E-learning in rural schools.
Recently, I visited a remote school in my community to give a career talk to the senior secondary students. My talk was tilted towards motivating the students to embrace technology as a constant factor in whatever field of study or career path they choose.
The talk, titled 'The Final Divide' gave an insight into the future of education with emphasis on edutech. Clear disparities were made between the traditional society as we know it and the knowledge based economy.
During my talk, I brought up the new ways of working which the students would eventually graduate into. The workplace is changing, and the reality is that students are either prepared with the necessary skill set now to be employable or innovators; otherwise they end up competing for scarce, lower paying traditional careers which served our parents’ generation but will not be very relevant in their time.
I asked them if they know what the word 'techno-preneur' meant. None of them did, so I broke it into 'techno' and 'entrepreneur', explaining that it simply meant a person who invests in ideas - especially technology related ideas. I cited Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma as examples of successful technopreneurs. At that point, a student raised his hands to identify Jeff Bezos as the CEO of Amazon. This was impressive because none of the other students knew who Jeff Bezos was, let alone know about his work with Amazon. I then introduced Jack Ma and explained how both technopreneurs were the richest men on the planet and in China respectively.
We started discussing the future. I brought up the role of A.I in shaping our World with smart cars, smart Police stations, smart trains and others. The big question for them was on how they could go about acquiring the requisite skills to partake in the knowledge based economies and not just be mere spectators. Majority of remote schools do not have access to skilled or sufficient number of teachers talk more of innovative classroom tools to prepare the students for the world.
I introduced online learning to them as an avenue for skills acquisition, especially in remote areas. I mentioned websites like Alison and Khan Academy where they could access free resources and courses. Only the same boy who had raised his hand earlier already knew about Alison and Khan Academy.
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He approached me after the session to let me know that he had completed some web design courses on Alison and was using Khan Academy as well. He is interested in a career involving programming, he told me, but his father insists that he study medicine. It's a sad moment for me to see the interest of parents come into collision with the desire of their children in terms of academic pursuits. I remembered the saying:
No one is celebrated for finding sand but for finding gold. Sand is common, you can get it almost anywhere but to get gold one has to dig and sift through the sand.
Today's students need to think outside the box if they want to succeed in the real world. Online learning exposes students from rural schools to a world of learning that escapes the boundaries of their classroom and communities. They can access learning content from all over the world simply with internet access and a device.
From this experience, it was already clear that the boy who had been exposed to online learning already had a knowledge advantage over his peers. That is the kind of difference that these students may be missing out on because of their environment, but promoting e-learning programmes can help to bridge that gap.