Tom Friedman’s column this morning in The New York Times is entitled “Revolution Hits the Universities” and focuses on online learning but adds a new twist. He writes about MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and Coursera, which Friedman has written about before, as well as edX, the nonprofit MOOC M.I.T. and Harvard are jointly building.
One paragraph in particular caught my attention. Friedman writes that today only a small percentage complete all the work in an online course, and even they still tend to be from the middle and upper classes of their societies, but then he writes, “I am convinced that within five years these platforms will reach a much broader demographic. Imagine how this might change U.S. foreign aid. For relatively little money, the U.S. could rent space in an Egyptian village, install two dozen computers and high-speed satellite Internet access, hire a local teacher as a facilitator, and invite in any Egyptian who wanted to take online courses with the best professors in the world, subtitled in Arabic.”
Well, why doesn’t the Peace Corps do something ‘creative’ and move ahead with a partnership with edX of Harvard and M.I.T. and connect NOW the thousands of PCVs who are already teaching in the developing world? Start now to link their classrooms in villages around the world with online access to our professors back home.
For years I have written that the Peace Corps should go ‘into business’ with One Laptop per Child and give each PCV a low-cost, low-power laptop that the Volunteer would leave behind, much like our famous old booklockers, but the various leaderships (since about 1996) at the PC/HQ wouldn’t lead or listen.
Now with this advance in technology, we have (again!) the chance to bring the finest minds in America into our Peace Corps classrooms in the developing world. I can’t believe that this wouldn’t appeal to the edX to join up with a government agency like the Peace Corps.
As Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T., is quoted by Friedman, “There is a new world unfolding and everyone will have to adapt.”
Well, if the Peace Corps doesn’t adapt to what is happening around them, no nation in the world will want our Volunteers! They won’t need them.
You heard it here first!