While online education has been gaining traction in America for roughly 15 years, the inevitable maturation and spread of this technology into developing countries is bound to spark a revolution.
That was a key takeaway from a letter penned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — which, with an endowment of $42.3 billion, represents one of the largest private foundations on earth.
On this, its 15th anniversary, the Foundation laid bare its hopes for the world over the next 15 years — including the prediction that online education will reach hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
The growth of high-speed cell networks and a proliferation of affordable devices will largely fuel this accessibility.
Children who have grown up with smartphones and tablets, for instance, tend to utilize them intuitively. Therefore, according to the Foundation, kids in third world countries will eventually be able to learn letters and numbers before even entering primary school, aided by software that adjusts to various learning speeds.
The Foundation also envisions online education that better feeds into specific career paths. Whereas early efforts in the field have “amounted to little more than pointing a camera at a university lecturer and hitting the ‘record,’ button,” according to the Gates letter, new coursework would ostensibly hone in on specific professional requirements.
Perhaps most vital to the future of education, however — especially in developing countries — is closing the gender gap. One way this can be accomplished is by putting technology in the hands of women. In Africa and South Asia, for instance, women are far less likely than men to own a cell phone.
While education can be a powerful force for equality, if such pain points aren’t addressed, writes the Foundation, “then education will become another cause of inequity, rather than a cure for it.”