Online Learning Sites: The Carnegie Libraries Of The 21st Century?
My latest Psychology Today column looks at the impact of the recent explosion of online learning opportunities, particularly those offered by Sal Khan of Khan Academy:
“This bonanza of educational opportunity recalls an earlier era in American history, and another man determined to make learning available to all: the steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Between 1886 and 1919, he helped open 1,679 public libraries in communities all over the United States. Carnegie, a poor weaver’s son from Scotland who never went to college, gratefully recalled the generosity of a wealthy gentleman who opened his personal library to local working boys, and he resolved use his own riches to make books available to everyone. The list of Americans who educated themselves at the nation’s public libraries is a storied one: the writer Jack London, the poet Kahlil Gibran, the memoirist Frank McCourt and the playwright August Wilson are among those who made libraries their schools.
Today, of course, knowledge no longer needs to be bound into the paper and cloth of a book but can float free on the wireless waves of the Internet. There’s a lot of junk bobbing in those waves as well — information that is outdated, inaccurate, or flat-out false — so the emergence of online educational materials that are both free of charge and carefully vetted is a momentous development. This phenomenon is all the more significant given the increasing scrutiny directed at for-profit online universities, which have been criticized for burdening students with debt even as they dispense education of questionable usefulness. Websites offering high-quality instruction for free are the Carnegie libraries of the 21st century: portals of opportunity for curious and motivated learners, no matter what their material circumstances.”
Read more here, and let me know what you think.