Universitas magistrorum et scholarium
Institutions have long been able to espouse the conceptualisation of knowledge embodied by its era, and in turn, they built physical and abstract structures to house and organise this learning. To better emulate its period’s knowledge, existing structures made way for better ones, more suited to outvie those that struggled to adapt, as highlighted in "Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet", by Ian F. McNeely and Lisa Wolverton. The estrangement of universities from an institution solely dedicated to espousing knowledge with a tunnelled focus on the teachers and students have led these institutions to become inefficient, and rather preoccupied with matters unconcerned to the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, free from indiscriminate perversions of the world.
A university is meant to be a community of “teachers and scholars”, a community thriving in the sharing and accumulation of knowledge, undeterred by the prying influences of whimsical institutions. Over time, this definition has diluted and the tenor of what a university was meant to be has become a low bass crooning in the background, what we see at most universities today.
Over the past two years, humanity has experienced exponential digital acceleration. The manifestation of this digital acceleration is being realised through facets of daily life and industry; the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Once established and defined industries are being redefined, the stronghold of the once venerable yet archaic institutions are slowly being eroded to pave way for novelty driven by innovation and creativity to tackle the 21st century.
The fact of the matter is, industries are being revolutionised at a mammoth pace, yet the universities responsible for educating the next generation are sticking to their old ways.
An Abundance of Knowledge or an Ostentation?
The shift in the paradigm of universities is embodied by its estrangement from its fundamental academic value of “a fidelity to the basic canons of scholarly and scientific inquiry”, a view advocated by Derek Bok as well. In his book “Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Education”, Bok illustrates how a fall in government funds led to greater funding from businesses with motives to universities in the US. Since the dawn of the twenty-first century, researchers have stated that corporate funding affects 35 percent of their research choices, up from 14 percent in 1985. University administrators frown upon research that cannot allure media attention and corporate money.
According to Bok, the shift to a profit emphasis in universities in the US has led to a slump in instructional quality, with a focus on rather complaisant topics and inordinately weak assessments. Sadly, the instructors never earn a fair share of the profits. Universities appear to be scrounging their instructors, researchers, and students for their share of the pie.
A major failure point in incumbent systems is that higher education focuses heavily on "transmitting" information from an educator's head to the learner's head. But such an endeavour is obsolete given the abundance of knowledge content available today. Instead, educators need to focus on guiding the social process of learning, keeping learners accountable and inspiring them to apply their skills to contribute towards societal progress.
However, we don't question this system because we have gotten accustomed to valuing exclusive degrees far greater than we value applicable skills. We need to critically reassess what exactly we pay for as we pour tens of thousands of dollars attending higher education.
There is an exaggerated sense of prestige associated with the grand ostentation of the value of higher education in its current state. We could go as far as to say that obtaining higher education is simply an extension of one’s ego, more so when unable to grasp the realities of skills required to create a meaningful impact in a world that is constantly being rethought and redefined across all spectra.
A Mismatch of Skills
The Covid-19 pandemic effectively put graduates and disillusioned working members of society in existential dread, one that we at Eduweave faced as well as reflecting on the significance of our formal education. Today, ambitious people are more existential than they’ve ever been. Skills are being made redundant faster than ever and are being replaced by entirely new ones. People have more realistic options other than traditional career paths but traditional education structures have been slow to react because they have no incentive to.
For a better illustration of this prevailing phenomenon, let me personify it through my experience, an ongoing quandary I’ve been battling with.
Reading economics at university, it would be concomitant to assume that I’d have vast amounts of knowledge of the growing decentralisation trend highlighted through the growing trend of web3. Albeit my pre-existing knowledge of web3 and the knowledge gathered from studying various economic theories, I feel heavily unprepared for the workings of such a new world, a far cry from the economic settings I have studied and learnt. My existential dread was epitomised when I realised that there was no point sitting around and pretending to know how cryptocurrencies work when in reality I do not have the skills to effectively contribute – what’s the point of my hollow attempts to showcase my shallow understanding?
An Educational Nostrum
Since the 1500s, only 80 to 90 institutions have remained continuously in existence, of which about 70 are high learning institutions. It is astounding how little these intuitions have done to evolve their learning models and become more inclusive. Higher education is in dire need of innovation and we desperately need newer and more inclusive learning models for the coming decades as a larger percentage of the human population will be eligible for higher education.
An Incomplete Answer to the Future of Learning
Many believed that the industry had made great strides with the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) starting around 2009. Pioneered by platforms like EdX and Udacity launched by "elite" intuitions like Harvard and Stanford began converting their course materials into digital form to distribute them over the internet.
The New York Times dubbed 2012 as the year of the MOOCs. The goal was simple yet ambitious, to provide learners who otherwise lacked access to quality higher education. However, a 2019 study revealed that these on-demand, self-paced MOOCs have a completion rate of just 3 to 6 percent.
In hindsight, this is unsurprising given that these courses primarily focus on content creation of which there is no shortage in our information-rich world. In fact, in many ways, MOOCs exacerbated problems with learning. Learners primarily learn by watching pre-recorded content with negligible interaction with the educator and their coursemates at large. There is no real sense of accountability and most MOOCs today are nothing more than edutainment with superficial learning outcomes.
Flipping the Script - Building Blocks for New Infrastructure
When conceptualising Eduweave, we wanted to bring back focus on the two most important stakeholders in the process of learning - teachers and learners.
At Eduweave, we enable domain experts and educators to build live learning communities and interact with learners directly. We want to enable expert educators to fill in the gaps that exist between academia, industry and the common public to create the necessary conditions to inspire and educate more people to build the future whilst also being monetarily rewarded for it. Our initial approach is two-pronged.
Firstly, our focus is on live courses and communities independently run by expert educators. Study online from learning resources (may or may not be created by your teacher) and go to live classes to have discussions, explore ideas, be creative, be collaborative and directly work on problems. Here, educators guide the social process of learning. This serves three goals:
- You need educators and a community to motivate the learner and keep them accountable and work towards their goals.
- Expressing ideas freely is not something that is nurtured in the education system. Live collaborative education brings the conviviality of human interactions into learning and gives us the opportunity to truly open up and apply our acquired skills.
- Transformational learning only happens within communities of practice and application. While consumption of knowledge can happen at the learners own pace, it is the collective progression of the community against challenges where we see true progress being made.
We are using social learning and human connections as pedagogical leverage to pioneer modern education for people to become real-world builders.
Secondly, we are building infrastructure better aligned with educators. Using Eduweave, the earning capacity of an educator would directly depend on the number of learners they could attract similar to the ideas of Adam Smith and the free market. These educators who are experts regardless of their academic background could attract learners to their learning communities based on prior work, professional network, academic research etc.
The best educators would not find it difficult to substantially increase their income while keeping costs for learners very reasonable. The reason we are able to do this is that we use software to scale and not severely under-utilised physical structures. We are not bogged down by unnecessary administrative overheads and can keep our margins high to redistribute them back to the educators.
We are at the cusp of massive technological and societal progress with breakthroughs in AGI, synthetic biology, web3, nuclear fusion and many other fields. What we need now is the education infrastructure to exponentially increase the global population that will rapidly make the jump into the knowledge economy and Eduweave is building this infrastructure.
Truth be told, there is no panacea to the issues plaguing education today. But we at Eduweave believe that we have a framework that brings the seemingly disoriented core of learners and educators back to the focal point of education. We want to redefine and rebuild education with those that resonate with us. We’re firm believers in the strength of a community, a community of learners and educators with a voice powerful enough to effect meaningful change and revolutionise education to tackle a muddled yet exciting future.
The gates of Eduweave will always be open for learners wanting to build the future and educators to unapologetically share their knowledge and expertise free from subjugations of the whims of institutional influences and learners.
We alone at Eduweave are powerless to effect change and thus we want to build our community around like-minded individuals to help build Eduweave. If you do resonate with us, take that leap of faith and be a part of this revolution by joining the Eduweave community.