Paradigm shift in Learning through Time and Technology

Knowledge used to be concentrated behind walls and in wooden cabinets. And people through sheer will to learn and understand world showed extreme desire to get a piece of it. That pretty much had been human civilization for more than a thousand years, and naturally our the institutions we created catered to this regime.

Be it the oldest university known to mankind, Takshila to Harvard established in 17th Century, all followed similar pedagogical process of admissions and graduation. Students studied definite course material, spend years going through books to master subjects and a selected few spent lifetime pursuing research and further development of academia. Wars, massacres, political dynamics or 1000 years of research and documentation, whatever the reason be, but Internet is here and its here to stay. A technology that built collective consciousness within 50 years of its inception has changed the world forever. Now knowledge is no more concentrated behind the walls in wooden cabinets. Entire world’s wisdom resides in your pockets and backpacks. You are more powerful at any given point than any living being had ever been in the history of earth. So why on earth could we expect that learning would still follow age old practices that were designed for a time forgotten.

Maybe not now, but eventually we will see a time where degree is a paper and social status related to having one is a mirage. Where skills are the only thing that matters, where talent is paramount, and learning and development is as real as breathing to us. Either we contribute to it everyday, or live our lives in oblivion but it has come a long way for us to ignore it. For those who romanticize the idea of lifelong learning, the natural question comes, How do we pursue it? Where do we start? How much would it cost? What’s the right path? What content should we consume? How could we show our progress to the world?

We will be exploring these questions in depth in the coming posts so stay tuned, but first let’s see the current scenario of the online learning platforms and how they have shaped over the years.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) like those offered by Udemy, CourseEra, EdX, Udacity came into the ethos of learning and offered some revolutionary solutions to the problems faced by a fast paced industry.

  1. The half life of any skill in the current tech and product sector is less than 5 years, Moocs enabled people to keep themselves upto date at a cheaper cost than going through a university education.
  2. Working professionals find it extremely hard to contribute time to their learning and development, Moocs offered them flexibility and convenience of learning anytime, anywhere.
  3. Whereas offline degreed programs offered by universities were rigid and hard to customize for an individual, Moocs offered courses specific to skills that a person wants to learn and develop depending upon what is required in his profession. They introduced ability to customize learning.

Every innovation brings with it a solution and a creates a problem, and the sweet spot is the trade off. Cars replaced horses but environment suffered. Similarly Moocs did all the above but introduced a new set of problems.

  1. The drop out rate from a course in e learning is very high, close to 97%.
  2. Even though MOOCs offer choice and customization at a course level, this level of customization is still not enough as the courses themselves are largely one-size-fits-all.
  3. Since Moocs are self paced, learner often lacks the motivation to proceed forward to complete it and get accredited.
  4. Learners would often pay for the entire course and only see the sections that are relevant to them. This leads to further customization requirement which sadly current Moocs aren’t able to fulfill.

So is there a better way to do things. Well there might just be. Stay tuned….

Reference material : Prof Mohanbir Sawhney Future for learning Blog (