Customizing Education

by Extension Engine | April 9, 2014

Estimated time to read: minutes

Picture a typical classroom of 20+ students staring at a chalkboard with a frazzled teacher at the helm. What if classrooms weren't defined by messy chalkboards and boring textbooks? A new wave of educational tools is coming and we'll no longer be limited by traditional learning methods.

The new approach doesn't remove teachers from classrooms - far from it. Viewing new educational platforms as a supplement, or extension to the classroom can be very powerful. One of the possibilities with these tools is that we suddenly have the ability to customize education for individual students. Currently, most people learn by completing step one, receiving a grade, and moving to step two. This may be in the form of a topic, a grade level, or even a semester. The problem with this linear approach is that not all students learn in the same way or at the same speed. This results in some students being pushed too quickly (without mastering the current topic), while others are bored and anxious for new material. This is true across various subjects; it's common to see a student excel in math but lag behind in English literature, or vice versa. The new methodology allows each student to progress at their optimum speed in each learning area.

With many student to teacher ratios surpassing 20:1, it is easy to imagine how challenging (if not impossible) it is to implement a plan to optimize each student's best learning style. Educational software gives us the ability to provide automated feedback on a student's progress in 'real time', getting more out of every hour a student spends in the classroom.

We're now free to reinvent what education looks like from the ground up. This shift will push many out of their comfort zones. We're particularly excited about a collaboration between Harvard and MIT called edX. After open sourcing the platform in 2013, it's ready for prime time and being implemented across the world. This shift is in its infancy and will bring better education to the masses.

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