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THE FUTURE OF HIGHER (LIFELONG) EDUCATION:
For All Worldwide, A Holistic View

(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)

Return to Chapter 3.8 | Go to Chapter 3.10

Volume III, Chapter Nine

BORK'S NEW LIFELONG LEARNING SYSTEM FOR THE WORLD

(This chapter is written by Alfred Bork of the Educational Technology Center, Information and Computer Science, at the University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-3525). September 7, 2002, and such a tutoring system will be needed in a glboal online learning system.

I do not believe that the global education problem is solvable by conventional means: the building of classrooms in remote areas, and the preparation of a vast array of teachers. Very affluent countries may continue to pursue education this way, but even we in America have, almost without realizing it, created a vast system of nonconventional continuing education that today serves to educate more people than the conventional system, ranging from kindergarten to the university. We have certainly come to the time when we need to entertain some new and creative thoughts about the total enterprise of education, especially as it affects the less developed countries, which will become comparatively less and less developed without some new system of education. -- Theodore Hesburgh, The Human Imperative, page 65, Yale University Press, 1974

. . . education is an essential human right, a force for social change - and the single most vital element in combating poverty, empowering woman, safeguarding children from exploitative and hazardous labour and sexual exploitation, promoting human rights and democracy, protecting the environment and controlling population growth. Education is a path toward international peace and security. - - - 130 million children in the developing world are denied this right [education] - - almost two thirds of them girls. Nearly 1 billion people are illiterate - - the majority of them women. --Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, Forward, The State of the World's Children, 1999.

Let me tell you a story. The time is 2025, in a town in India with about 100,000 people. We are in the center of town, in a room that contains many screens that look like television sets without keyboards. Many people all ages are intently interacting with the material on the screen. The interaction is entirely by voice, and the native language of the students is used, except when they are learning another language. Students are free to say anything they wish, and they do.

Their slightly older brothers and sisters bring three five-year old students to the center, Maya, Asha, and Gopal. This is their first visit to the Center.

They sit down at one of the screens, and begin a conversation with the ‘learning aid’. The human voice is the mode of this interaction, in both directions. The learning device talks to the students, mostly asking questions, and the students talk to learning device, answering the questions. Our three young heroes sit down together, and often discuss what they will say.

The learning aid first asks the children what their names are. Then it suggests that Maya tell a story. It may need to prompt the student to begin, but probably this will not be necessary, as children love to tell stories. As the child tells a story print appears on the screen in the child's native language. Since these young children they may not know how to read the print. Pictures illustrate the story as is told. The learning device adds periods where appropriate. We are beginning even in this early stage both to get children to write, and to understand the connection between speech and the funny symbols that appear on the screen.

The learning device asks the student to read back the story. We will soon determine just what they can read. The learning aid reads back the story slowly, using the voice of the student, emphasizing each word on the screen as it is read. The story is stored, and will be presented again to the student.

Our students come back often, eventually learning to read and to compose stories and other documents. The devices learn much about the student, and use that information in future learning. Occasionally the learning device suggests that they work with other students, suggesting which students, so they become familiar will many children in the village.

There many other groups around the room, almost all working on different things. Some learn about nonviolent ways to resolve disputes. A group of 10-year-olds is learning how to differentiate a function. An older group of children is working on quantum electrodynamics. Some are working with a learning aid to learn how to build and operate a small factory. Several 80 year olds are striving to understand Beethoven's ninth Symphony.

No one is in charge in the room. It belongs to the learners. Learners continue working on a topic until they succeed in learning, as determined by the learning device. Since all succeed, no tests and grades are given. Any subject is possible at any time and at whatever pace the students want or need. The learning aid assists with choosing new subjects, based on what is known about the student.

The learners are not required to work in groups, but most do, in groups of about three or four. They come whenever they want to, and leave whenever they want to; they are free learners, working because they are in a highly interactive motivating environment, and because they have always enjoyed learning. Many of the children spend much of the day in the center. They may also work on projects outside the Center. If special help is needed, the learning aid suggests several people to assist, and asks those people if they are willing, when they are in the Center.

The learners in this village understand that learning is a lifelong process. They love to learn, perhaps because they are always successful in learning, and perhaps because they do it with their friends. Even in a young age they understand the power of learning, and this encourages lifelong learning.

They know too that billions of other people on the earth are engaged in similar learning activities, and they understand clearly that this helps them avoid violence, and to solve the major problems of the world, such as too many people, poverty, and not enough food or water.

Their own village has changed greatly since the learning aids were available. Everyone has a comfortable place to live, enough food, and enough water. People enjoy life.

This chapter presents strategy for attaining the situation in this story. It begins with the paradigm for the current learning system in the world, a paradigm probably unsuited for learning in the future. Then it suggests an alternate paradigm, distance tutorial learning with computers, and discusses a proposed new perspective to lifelong learning based on this paradigm. Learning delivered to everyone everywhere is individualized for each individual. So student paces differ.

The next section outlines a method for producing computer-based highly interactive tutorial units. To gain an empirical basis for future development an extensive experiment testing this approach is necessary.

Given a successful experiment, the entire world can proceed to full development of the new learning approach seen in the story, producing the new tutorial learning units needed for everyone in the world from birth to old age. This will be a major global activity. Then the new learning material can be delivered to all parts of the world, both rich and poor. A consideration of technical and other problems to be solved to attain the new learning system follows.

3.9.0  INTRODUCTION TO AUTOMATED TUTORING

Six billion people on earth, nine billion in forty years, need to learn. Learning is critical for human happiness and progress, even survival. But all around the world, for both the rich and the poor, learning is in trouble. Our current learning systems are inadequate for our present and future needs. However, the technology is now available to develop an entirely new learning system, for everyone from birth to death. Distance learning will allow us to reach, economically, all six billion people. This chapter, other papers, and a recent book (see references at the end) picture this new system.

Creating the new system will be a major human adventure.

3.9.1  PARADIGMS

Our first topic is paradigms for learning.

Information Transfer. One paradigm has dominated education for many centuries. Learning is viewed as the transfer of information from a knowledgeable individual to a learner. Knowledge ‘radiates’ from such individuals to the learners. Transfer may be by lecture in a class, by print (book or the World Wide Web), and by video, perhaps through the Web.

Current learning based on this paradigm seems trapped by an inescapable reliance on institutions, mostly training centers, schools, and universities, and classrooms. This paradigm developed when there were far fewer people on earth. It ignores the parts of learning that go beyond information, such as problem solving and creativity. It is weak in individualized attention.

Tutorial Learning.  Another learning paradigm, tutorial learning, has also existed for a very long time. Learning is viewed as a conversational interaction between a skilled tutor and one or a very small group of students. Unlike the classroom, learning proceeds at an individualized pace until the student succeeds at learning, mastery learning.

In this paradigm learning is a highly interactive process. The student is often answering questions, designed to find learning problems. There is no lecturing or watching large segments of video. It is clear that this is the better paradigm, producing superior learning. Those who could afford this approach usually choose it. Thus, the wealthy employed tutors to educate their children.

3.9.2  TUTORIAL LEARNING WITH COMPUTERS

The tutorial paradigm, with a skilled tutor for one or a small group of students is far too expensive for a system of learning for the entire world. But the development of interactive technology, particularly the computer, suggests a new range of possibilities. The Irvine group has been exploring for over thirty years the idea that the computer, suitably programmed, can be the tutor.

This approach does not depend on Artificial Intelligence, but rather on how, and by whom, the learning programs are developed. Such a system, discussed further in this chapter, has the potential to lead globally to much better learning at a lower cost. Artificial intelligence may be useful in the future.

An Example of Tutorial Learning. An example is Heat, developed over a dozen years ago at the University of California, Irvine, in the Scientific Reasoning Series (marketed by IBM). The first thing presented to the student in this student-computer dialog is a question, how do you measure your body temperature. The student types an answer to this question, in English. (A French version was available, and any language is possible.) When a student said that a thermometer was used, several questions inquire how long the thermometer needed to be kept in the mouth. The program looked for responses like ‘keep it in longer,’ or 'it should stay in your mouth for several minutes.' This strategy of questions continued for the entire program, about an hour for a typical student.

The aim of this program was to have each student individually, or better in groups of no bigger than three, discover the concept of heat. Traditionally students tend to confuse this idea with that of temperature.

Characteristics of Tutorial Learning. The interaction in this example was in the student’s native language, and consisted primarily of questions to the student, and student free-form responses. Multiple choice was used very little. Students proceed at an individualized rate until success is attained. For the entire program, this pattern is followed.

Student replies are no more than twenty seconds apart. So the student did not spend large passive intervals reading or watching video. Tutorial learning sequences are highly interactive, unlike classes and most online learning today.

3.9.3  TUTORIAL LEARNING IS ADAPTIVE

Computer-based tutorial learning can not compete with a very skilled human tutor. Nevertheless, tutorial learning can be much superior to that using the passive information transfer paradigm, as in classrooms.

Adaptive learning. The major reason is that such an interactive program, carefully designed, can adapt the learning activities to the needs of each student.

The program can at each point, by careful questioning, identify learning problems and offer effective individualized aid until learning succeeds. In an environment where all learners succeed, students will enjoy learning. The designers of the learning units, groups of good teachers, are responsible for these details.

Storing student information. Another factor making the units adaptable is the storing of student information, and using that information, both frequently. So the computer response to student messages is based both on currently student replies, and past student information.

Zone of proximal development. An important related notion is the Vigotsky concept of the 'zone of proximal development'. Questioning can determine the status of the student, and so find what she or he is now ready to learn. If one learning approach does not work, the program can try another. This continues until each student masters the material. Almost all students succeed.

Invisible tests. In such a learning situation the students do not see anything they identify as tests. In a sense, every question is a test, used to determine what learning material is presented next.

Tests lead to negative student attitudes, so motivation is helped if tests are invisible. Since everyone succeeds, there are no grades. Without tests students do not cheat on tests.

Talking to the computer. A likely possibility for the future is that student input will be through voice. Further empirical evidence for the effectiveness of voice input for learning is essential. Typing is a barbaric inheritance from the past. Pointing is a limited way of communicating with the computer. Voice communication is a natural way for humans to communicate.

For widely spoken languages, existing speech recognition software is adequate. For global use, the speech engines need to be extended to many languages. Additional work may be required in some situations.

Learning with peers. Several students typically work together at the computer. This leads to better learning. Peer learning is very important, but seldom stressed in conventional learning situations. Our studies show that a group of three or four is best. If there are more students, some may not be active learners.

A lifelong of learning can be based on such adaptive learning.

3.9.4  DEVELOPING TUTORIAL LEARNING MODULES

Next is a description of a method for developing materials of the type just noted, developed for over thirty years at the University of California, Irvine. Other methods are possible. More recently friends in the University of Geneva, in Switzerland, and California State University San Marcos joined this effort. The process is described in detail elsewhere (Bork, Gunnarsdottir, 2001).

The development process for tutorial learning is different than that often followed in other instructional material, because the learning paradigm is different. The first step, very important for the quality of the material, is design.

Design. Design of tutorial learning materials needs careful attention. The key individuals are experienced teachers in the activity been considered, excellent teachers who frequently talk with individual students and understand student learning problems. If the material concerns algebra, for example, the designers are teachers of algebra. Researchers in learning in the area may also be in the design groups.

The design process allows us to greatly amplify the effects of these good teachers. In a class a teacher reaches only a few students, but with the highly interactive approach suggested the number of students can be many magnitudes greater.

The first morning in a week long design session is concerned with what the designers do to develop tutorial learning units. This could also happen with interactive units for the designers that could be used in advance. Designers work in groups of about four.

The questions, the analysis of student replies, the resulting messages to the students, and the decisions about what to present next all come from the designers. They also decide what information about student performance is stored, and how this information is used later in the program. Designers work in groups of about four teachers, pooling their knowledge of students. No programming of any type is required for the designers. They are chosen for their pedagogical knowledge, not for their programming abilities.

A script, on paper or online, records the full details of the design. This is a visual document showing all the decisions just mentioned, and the flow of the students’ activities. It is quickly learned by the designers. If it is done on paper it can be entered into the computer by others.

Having the script stored in the computer has many advantages. The computer can inspect the script, and so locate areas where the designers did not complete their work. Also successive versions of the script can be stored. As improvements are made, these can be stored also in the computer, changing the existing script.

The script editor was developed by Bertrand Ibraham, of the University of Geneva, and his students and coworkers. An interpretive version is being developed by Rika Yoshii and others at California State University San Marcos.

Implementation. The online script is the basis for implementation. The computer can write much of the program directly from the script, in whatever programming language is desired, or the script may be interpreted at the time of execution. However some human programming will also be needed.

In addition to coding, the media specified by the designers are developed by very competent people in the area. Screen designers decide the layout of the screen. The final stage in implementation is Beta testing. A program must run with few errors before evaluation, the next stage.

Evaluation. At least two stages of formative evaluation with large numbers of students, each followed improvement, are essential to assure that learning is adaptive. Professional evaluators should design and supervise this evaluation. No matter how skilled the designers are, they will miss some points. In evaluation information about student behavior is stored by the computer. Some human evaluators will also be needed.

Evaluation considers both cognitive and affective issues. The quality of learning for all is the critical idea. We may find points where students do not understand the questions, for example. An important issue is whether almost all students succeed. If not, additional material to the learning units is essential. The goal is mastery for all students.

Students should stay at the material for long periods of time, even in environments where there are no teachers present. In many of the situations in the world where these materials are needed, there will not be adequate teachers, so motivation is an important consideration. This can be determined empirically, by using the materials in threat-free environments such as libraries and shopping centers, where the students are free to leave at any time. Places where many people leave are points where motivation is weak.

An important motivational issue is that students should enjoy learning. This encourages lifelong learning. One issue is that the learning units should always take a positive attitude toward the learner. The learning material should always be helpful, not critical.

Each evaluation cycle must be followed by an improvement cycle. Information stored by the computer and gathered by evaluators shows what changes are needed. Changes can be made in the stored script. Additional design sessions may occasionally be needed to overcome the problems found during evaluation.

3.9.5  EXPERIMENTS  IN TUTORIAL LEARNING

Only small amounts of tutorial learning material are available. The results are encouraging, but not enough to justify the major effort suggested in this chapter. Extensive well-planned and carefully executed experiments at several levels are essential to determine if this approach is as promising as it seems.

These experiments would involve both the development of extensive learning units and the careful evaluation of this material with very many students of varying backgrounds and ages, gaining both knowledge of the effectiveness of this approach and guidance for further development. An extensive empirical basis is needed to proceed further in this direction.

These experiments should be international in scope, involving several languages, including students living in extreme poverty. Material should be developed and tested in many countries.

Development for the Experiments. Several course-length learning segments are desirable for our tests. An important area should be learning for young children, a weak area in many parts of the world. Several areas, extending through adult education, are desirable. Four such segments might be developed and evaluated.

The experiment might begin with just one development. Funds might not be available for a more extensive experiment initially.

Evaluation. After these ‘courses’ are developed, they should be intensively tested with large numbers of students of all backgrounds and interests. Professional evaluators should plan this study. The computer saves much of the data while students are learning, but human evaluators will also be required, as with formative evaluation.

It is important to consider cognitive information, how each student and each type of student learns, and affective information, just as in the evaluation during development already reviewed. This last is particularly important in distance learning, in encouraging students to continue to learn. Our experience is that highly interactive units are intrinsically motivating. This should receive empirical verification in extensive testing, particularly in developing countries. The effectiveness of voice input voice input in learning also needs further study.

Decision. The final stage of the experiment is the decision as to whether to proceed to full implementation, based on all the information gathered. One possibility is that further experimental studies might be needed. This might not be the only experiment involving a new structure for global learning. Other proposals might be developed, and these should also be considered and tested.

This experiment will be the beginning of extensive new research in learning. Using such material with very large numbers of students would provide an excellent opportunity to better understand learning.

3.9.6  FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF SOMETHING ENTIRELY NEW

If the experiment is successful, the world should proceed to developing many such learning units, covering all learning from birth to old age. This will be a major international activity, over many years. Many groups may be involved. The story at the beginning illustrates something of the wide range of learning material that will be needed, but does not look at the full range of possibilities.

Development for Implementation. It will be desirable to have several learning segments in an area, developed by different groups, to allow choice and comparison. Eventually many learning materials will need to be available in all human languages, with cultural adaptations when necessary. As suggested, voice input may play a large role.

Many different groups will be in involved, making their own decisions, about what to develop next. But some areas will be of particular importance.

An early focus might be on early childhood education. Studies in the head start program, and similar activities elsewhere, have shown that this is an important early stage for learning. Perhaps the most important learning to be concerned with quickly is that of the child before reaching twelve, the foundation for later learning.

This will include the very important issues of literacy, both reading and writing. But this might not be the first material, as it may present some unique problems; experience in simpler areas such as arithmetic and scientific literacy would be useful. It may be possible to teach literacy partially within other subject areas.

Another area that should receive early attention is adult education. This is sporadically available at the present time. But as population ages, and the world continues to change ever more rapidly, better lifelong learning is essential. In a sense, in the future system all learning will be lifelong learning, based on developing the attitude in students that they want to, and should, continue in learning. They must enjoy learning if this is to happen.

It is important to consider not only the types of learning in present institutions, but also learning that is important but is being neglected now. Major world problems must be addressed even with young children. Thus, for a nonviolent world, we must begin globally with very young children. Some material concerning world problems might be embedded in other units, while some might be separate learning units.

This new material can be of variable length. Some segments might last for only a few weeks, while others might go on for years. Our current division of learning into courses is the contribution of current institutions, particularly institutions whose policies were developed before computers existed. But not all learning fits into the same size chunks.

In another sense, all learning lifelong could be considered a single course, a continuous activity for the entire life.

Who Will Develop? Any country or group can be involved in development. No one is ahead; all societies start at ground zero with regard to highly adaptive learning units, so problems of equity should not occur. Developing areas may be at an advantage, because they have fewer educational structures to offer resistance to a radically new approach. Large potential profits may encourage countries and companies to participate.

This large and complex worldwide process will need guidance from an international committee. This group should encourage the development of the most needed materials, from a global viewpoint.

Evaluation for Implementation. Each set of materials should have a professional evaluation, with large numbers of students of many backgrounds. The information from these studies should be gathered and correlated. Continuing development of new learning segments is required.

This evaluation may be different than that conducted for each of the modules in module development, considering a number of different issues.

1. Does everyone learn fully? Are there spots in the modules where learning is incomplete for some students?

2. Are there motivationally weak areas, found by using the program in environments where there is no pressure to stay at the activity? Such areas as public libraries and shopping areas are good possibilities. There is no teacher or other person to keep the student at the activity. Further, students know that they will not be tested in schools on this material, because the school does not know that they are using it. Areas where many leave the program indicate spots of poor motivation. These need to be reworked and retested. The major reason for such problems is that the materials are not sufficiently interactive at that point.

3. Do all students enjoy learning? This is important in promoting lifelong learning.

4. Are there places where the language used is not clear to the students? Do many students answer a question that is not the one that the designers asked?

5. If several versions exist, we can compare student learning.

3.9.7  GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION

Development of extensive learning is not enough. The materials need to be used by all six billion people on earth. The mechanisms for widespread distribution may differ greatly over time, and in rich and poor segments of society, suggesting a variety of distribution technologies.

Developed Areas. In developed countries schools and universities exist, but are sometimes weak, and there is widespread (but not universal) Internet access. The new units could be used both in formal and informal learning environments.

There will be an extensive market, including parents that are unsatisfied with their children’s educational opportunities. There will be large profits from this market, as the results of evaluation become known, so commercial groups will be interested in development and distribution. The current inequalities in education must vanish.

Developing Countries. In developing countries, the situation is very different. Teachers and schools are much rarer, and often much too expensive. In spite of large efforts from governments, UNESCO, and The World Bank, these facilities are generally available only for the wealthy or middle class. The prospects for developing enough schools and training enough teachers for everyone are bleak. The education gap between rich and poor is even greater than in developed countries, where it is already a major problem.

Communications are much weaker in these poor areas. Half the people in the world have never used a telephone. Internet is only a distant dream for most of these humans, available again only for the wealthy or for the governments. Electricity may not be available. Solar powered computers for delivery of learning materials may be required.

Initially likely distribution in poor areas will be through CD-ROM. Soon two-way access through satellite should be widely available. A study done for The World Bank uses a two-stage satellite model, global and local, to show that as the numbers of students increase this will be the cheapest way to distribute learning. Some of the profits from sales of the new learning units in developed countries might support this effort.

Special computers, learning appliances, will be useful in the developing countries. They would support only the tutorial learning material, so they would need much less capabilities than current common personal computers, with a much simpler, almost invisible, operating system. Probably these will cost less than one hundred dollars. Groups of learning appliances could be set up in village, regional, or city centers, as in our story.

Learning Costs. Our next consideration is the cost of learning. Any new learning system should be financially feasible. In considering this issue it is critical to consider all costs. All too often discussions of distance learning consider only the costs of development. The critical cost is that for delivering an hour of high quality learning material to student. The student may be anywhere in the world.

The key factor in considering costs is the numbers students will use the material. The United Kingdom Open University showed many years ago that costs per student can be low even if development costs are high. The key to low costs is that the material works well with very large numbers of students, and that students will learn in less time. The individualized tutorial approach would seem to be the best possibility.

In the book (Bork, Gunnarsdottir 2001) Chapter 12 is devoted to issues of cost. Some factors needed in that consideration are not yet known, but will depend on further experience. But with large numbers of students costs for an hour of learning will be less, possibly much less, than the costs of learning today, Learning will be faster with adaptive learning, further reducing costs.

Implementation and Integration in Practice. This chapter outlines an ambitious process for improving learning in the world. It appears that this process is attainable, and would allow us to greatly improve learning in the world. Other possibilities should also be tried.

This section discusses what is necessary to attain the new system outlined in this chapter, first considering technical requirements, and then examining other aspects of starting the new system.

Technical requirements. Surprisingly little new technology is needed to accomplish the new learning system proposed. Voice input is not available in all languages, but the basic speech engines are available, and can be adapted to new languages. For the rarer languages providing new speech recognition facilities is required. These facilities will be essential in areas where there is a high illiteracy rate. Learning materials should work with everyone, including many people who cannot read and write, at least in the earlier stages of the effort. Voice recognition is essential.

Improvements can be made in the present script editor, and other aspects of production. It will not be difficult to increase the amount of code that can be written directly by the computer from the stored script; less code needs to be written by people, and so costs will be less, but not all code can be written automatically. Designers will ask for capabilities that must be programmed by people. Another possibility is to interpret the script at runtime.

Another area of minor technical development will be to verify that sizable chunks of the program can be downloaded to the local computer, similar to that done with Java applets. This will allow all the interaction to take place at the local computer, so that is not necessary to go back frequently to the server. This will allow better response for crowded systems. Higher bandwidth is not needed, which may surprise some who feel that the solution to everything is higher bandwidth on the Internet.

For the poorer parts of the world, other technical developments will help, such as solar powered computers in regions without electrical power. As suggested, the computer can be improved, making it far less expensive. Instead of having a general-purpose computer, capable of doing everything, a learning appliance, a computer intended just for supporting tutorial distance learning would be appropriate. This will also reduce theft of machines.

The operating system for the learning appliance would be much simpler than current operating systems, leading to more reliable performance. The best possibility would probably be an invisible operating system, never seen by the user. The main purpose of the operating system would be to provide access to learning, as more and more units are available.

Management needs. In any large complex global project for improving learning for all, international management groups should guide the project. Several groups are needed, for the experiment, for full development, and for distribution. Further details are in the references.

Political difficulties. Perhaps the most difficult problems to overcome are the political problems in a generalized sense, already mentioned in this chapter.

A major factor is the belief that 'our culture is different than any other culture', as this affects learning material. Much more empirical: information should find just where cultural differences will be important in learning. Our developmental process is designed to take into account cultural differences, but only experience can show if the process outlined is sufficient.

Another political problem is that there are already many entrenched organizations concerned with education. Some of these organizations may see the new development as a threat. This will be a major problem in some countries at the beginning of the project. But with good empirical evidence for the superiority of this new learning approach, these problems will diminish.

A problem related to the previous one is that many people will have difficulty believing that people can learn without schools, as will be required in the poor parts of the world. Once evidence is gathered that it is possible to learn without the current political structures, the need for schools everywhere will probably be questioned. Peter Drucker predicted a similar situation for universities.

Future Plans. What will learning look like when all the stages presented here have taken place? The story at the beginning of this chapter tries to give such a picture for future learning. Here we are looking further in the future than elsewhere in this chapter, so this prediction might be regarded with suspicion.

The first thing to note is that far more people will be learning than at present, and they will be learning throughout their lives. They will enjoy learning and will want to continue for their entire life. They will be successful in all their learning activities. Further, because learning is individualized, learning will be faster than in our current lock-step system. Many students might attain the current college graduation level by eighteen.

The present institutions will probably slowly vanish, along with grades in both senses. All the articulation problems between different kinds of institutions will not be important. Thus we will not worry about making a smooth transition from school to college. Learning will be a lifelong seamless activity, beginning at birth.

New kinds of institutions, such as those that stress social interactions, may spring into existence. Existing school buildings may be used in this way.

Student records will be available internationally. So when people go to a new place, they can continue their learning.

Money. What funding is required for this new approach? Adequate funding must be available. 

The Experiments. The first issue is funding for the experiment. For a single course-length segment used in several countries, about $5 million will be required. This would be the minimum experiment. More desirable would be to develop about four courses of this type, at various ages and subject matters, costing about $20 million; both sums are US dollars.

Costs of the experiments are very small as compared with national budgets for education in developed countries. But they are large as judged in other ways. Perhaps the best possibility would be governments, foundations, and international organizations, perhaps a combination. As with any experiment some risk would be involved.

Full Development. If the experiment is successful, full development should follow, in all learning areas and for all people. This cannot be a grassroots effort. In the early stages support will be needed for this development, perhaps $50 million before the operation will be self-supporting and profitable. The development of later learning segments could be financed by the profit from earlier units. This profit would need to come from the wealthy countries, but it would finance development for both wealthy and poor areas. Once it is established that learning materials of this type can make profits, many commercial groups will be interested in development.

Deployment. Delivery of these extensive materials worldwide will involve costs. In the wealthy parts of the world delivery expenses will probably not be a problem. But for the poor parts the world with no facilities now, delivery of learning will be a major consideration. Part of these costs could come again from the profits in the wealthy parts of the world. Computers and access to learning modules will be needed.

As suggested it would be desirable to develop a much cheaper computer for poor regions, with a much simpler operating system than is currently used. In areas without electricity these machines would be solar powered. Initially some of the material could be on CD-ROM, or similar medium, because Internet access is very unlikely in these areas for the very poor at present. But the eventual delivery mechanism in these areas probably will be through satellites.

3.9.8  CONCLUSIONS

The chapter began with a story about a possible learning system. Readers may at this point want to reread this story, which is modified from a larger version.

This chapter has suggested a new learning system for realizing the goal of universal learning, and a possible path for reaching that system. The prospects are very much worth further study. Other directions should also be explored. We have an exciting time ahead of us! Also  see `AutoTutor' in Educational Technology Jan/Feb. 2007

Return to Chapter 3.8 | Go to Chapter 3.10


Bibliographic Notes

The following references, particularly the book, give further details.

This chapter is a much expanded version of a paper that appeared in WIRTUALNA EDUKACJA, Number 6, October 2001.

Bork, Alfred, Bertrand Ibrahim, Alastair Milne, Rika Yoshii, The Irvine-Geneva Course Development (Bork et all 1992), in R. Aiken (Ed.), Education and Society, Information Processing 2, Elsevier, Holland, 1992.

Bork, Alfred (Bork 1999), Interview, EDUCOM Review, July/August 1999.

Bork, Alfred (Bork 1 2001), Tutorial Learning for the New Century, Journal of Science Education and Technology, March 2001, Volume 10, Number 1.

Bork, Alfred (Bork 2000), Four Fictional Views of the Future of Learning, The Internet and Higher Education, 3 (2000).

Bork, Alfred (Bork 2 2001), What is Needed Effective Learning on the Internet, Educational Technology and Society, 4(3) 2001.

Bork, Alfred, Sigrun Gunnarsdottir (Bork, Gunnarsdottir, 2001), Tutorial Learning – Rebuilding our Educational System, Kluwer Academic Publishers, New York, 2001.

Papers are available at www.ics.uci.edu/~bork. Alfred Bork can be reached at bork@uci.edu.

The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View
http://ecolecon.missouri.edu/globalresearch/chapters/3-09.html
For more information contact Parker Rossman
July 12, 2006 -- Copyright © 2002-2005 Parker Rossman