Back when i was an undergrad, I started what is now Knodium to solve a problem for me and my peers. We wanted a better way to study with each other online. We needed something that would take the pain out of having in depth discussions and that made use of all the techniques we were being encouraged to use such as making proper use of reference materials. Most importantly we just needed something that complemented our existing workflows. Not something that just assumed all studying was switching to online and trying to replicate the offline version of it.
We have come a long way since then. We’ve learnt a lot about how people study and work with each other. We’ve tested all sorts of concepts and now, with the new academic year just beginning we’re really excited to be opening up Knodium to every UK university.
It is our quest to give anyone with a spark of curiosity access to a world of likeminded people from whom to learn.
In the time we have been working on Knodium a lot appears to have happened in the education technology sector. People are talking about how education is changing, some even talk about an eventual overhaul of the system. Most seem set on disrupting it.
At its core the Internet has been driving change in education for years. Open access to information, the ability to break down borders and communicate in new ways is seeing both educators and students experiment with different education models. Arguably the biggest result of this is the emergence of MOOCs (or variants of). There is certainly a lot of hype and buzz around the likes of edX, Khan Academy and the newly launched FutureLearn, to name a few. But what do MOOCs mean for the universities involved and more importantly, what do they mean for the students?
Students now have access to more information and resources than ever before and this is changing the information monopoly that was once the foundation of universities. You need only talk to students (or to be one!) to understand that the ways in which they are now learning and exploring their subjects is powering this change. MOOCs are recognition of the fact that there is a considerable appetite to learn and consume information through, at least in education terms, a new medium.
I have a bone to pick…
The problem I see is that this has created a disconnect between students and universities; which is odd considering that, in so many other ways, the Internet is bringing people together like never before.
By moving education online (largely through students own doing but now with MOOCs) universities are struggling to see how this blends with a residential model of having students on campus with lecturers. They are failing to understand how students engage both with each other and with content, resulting in the online part of education being, by and large, separate from the offline part.
Left without any direction or support students find that the online world of education can be a lonely and unengaging place. And wow, students are so aware of this pain!
So it’s experiencing this pain and seeing the same in others that led to where Knodium is today. We’re not looking to disrupt education, there’s plenty of that happening already. Think of Knodium as a stable framework that complements the ways in which students and universities are moving online with the simple fact that higher education still has its roots very firmly in the offline. This offline model of education isn’t going away, but it must adapt to account for the online.
This is far from this being a gloomy problem for universities
It is a huge opportunity for them to recognise how they can engage with their students in a way that not only complements their offline teaching but actually gives educators greater freedom to teach. Imagine if lectures could be less focused on content delivery but with lecturers (and departments) having greater insight into how students are using the content online and engaging with each other. They could identify topics for discussion well before lectures or tutorials. Discussion and learning could properly flow from the lecture to online, back to the next lecture… maybe to a cafe with a study group, back to a tutorial and so on.
I see this as an opportunity for universities to strengthen the core of what makes them great: educating people through engagement with world class thinkers.
Maintaining quality is the cornerstone for any successful higher education provider.
I agree that MOOCs are exciting, but not for what they are at the moment. Opening up education to those that have previously struggled to get it is really exciting but I don’t see that existing MOOCs are the solution to this. MOOCs are the ripple before the wave but I question the value of MOOCs for universities with foundations firmly in residential education.
There is no doubt that education is changing and Knodium certainly intends to play a role in this.
Let’s use the the language of complementing and collaborating a little more, rather than the narratives of disruption and overhaul. We must critically evaluate the possibilities for change and be sure that in creating something new, we don’t break what was good about the old.
So for now, Knodium is here to help students get the very most out of their education and to help universities build on what makes them truly great.
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