Massive Distributed Teaching & Learning

Where Technology and Massive Distributed Teaching and Learning can be implemented, the efficiencies are unmatchable.

By Mike Feerick, Founder & CEO, ALISON

Mike Feerick, Founder and CEO Alison

Mike Feerick, Founder and CEO of Alison, speaking at the WISE conference in September 2020.

We have a crisis in Higher Education that is not a recent phenomenon. It has been here quite a while. Pre-COVID19, we in the wealthier parts of the world were satisfied that only 7% of the world’s population has ever been to college, despite a college education being a prerequisite to economic prosperity in many advanced parts of the world.

Yes, there may have been mild shared views that, in time, accessibility to colleges and universities would increase – and that that would be a good thing. But the urgency was not there. It was accepted that there was no other way. It was accepted that the opportunity provided to the few could never be extended to the many.

This view, however, is today patently false. Free empowerment platforms like allow people to study any of thousands of courses for free, and at any time, at any level, and potentially in any language. They allow teachers and subject-matter-experts to teach and share what they know for payment while retaining free access for learners. These platforms enable self-discovery and greater self-awareness through free psychometric testing, and now provide, through free recruitment services, a continuous conduit and pathway from greater knowledge and skills to new, better, and more secure employment opportunities.

Why are these platforms not assisted more by society? There is a simple answer. There is little economic incentive for anyone to embrace change in education. This needs to alter.

Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) have semi-permanent funding from governments all over the world. Industry leaders have the ear of politicians, and even the most talented of political leaders find it difficult to see and hear the innovation that is happening outside the education industry status quo, mainly due to the strength of HEI lobbying and public relations operations which are, in turn, paid for by the very governments that fund them.

These institutions are simply not set up to embrace the opportunity of education and skills training for the whole world as presented today. For courses that are provided online, the true economic value of same should only be charged to students. And, in most cases, that cost is very nominal, if not free. Traditional institutions will find it very hard to do this efficiently. They are over-staffed with people with the wrong skillsets. Indeed, in a recent conversation with the CEO of a national training agency, his concern was not how he and his organization could deliver new skills at a modern cost, but how he could retain his spending of $800m a year on salaries out of a $1B budget on staff who were no longer the right people for the task. HEIs are not social schemes for the employment of large numbers of people. Where Technology and Massive Distributed Teaching and Learning (MDTL) can be implemented, the efficiencies are unmatchable.

Where MDTL is possible, governments should pull back traditional funding of HEIs. The savings will present the opportunity for governments to fund other areas of education that need more resources, such as early learning and the introduction of more special needs assistants – an area where a large number of teachers can be redeployed.

Not all HEIs will face collapse. Where HEIs provide sustainable competitive value-add, such as the provision of controlled laboratories, and centres of advanced research, engaged by basic science funding of direct commercial research, these institutions can thrive. It is a future based not on nostalgia, but performance. On merit, not entitlement.

MDTL will impact students in a profound way. They will be able to educate themselves more quickly, more deeply, more flexibly in terms of time and also at next to no cost, saving them a semi-lifetime of repaying college loans which faces many of those experiencing the “privilege” of HEI education today. The learning provided can be much better focused on their specific needs as they can assess their potential and personal likes better through free psychometric testing, and they can study exactly what they want to study and not be limited to the electives to which any one college is able to provide access.

Similarly, the fleeting three- or four-year social exercise that college is today becomes a lifelong exercise of constant upskilling and retraining at no cost. This phenomenon holds the potential of a tremendous upsurge in productivity around the world but, within it, the tools to deal with the biggest challenges of our time including climate change, ignorance, and media literacy.

The future of education is to be seen in the masses – every one a learner, every one a teacher, in a world where understanding and experience is shared at an unprecedented level, something hard to comprehend in today’s world but something that can happen extraordinarily quickly if embraced. MDTL will change the world as we know it for the better. Let it begin.


This article was first published in the Special Edition E-Book: Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined




Views expressed in blog posts are many, varied, and sometimes contradictory.
They are exclusively the views of our valued contributors
and do not necessarily reflect the views of Education Matters.



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