Education gets more globalized, but weak points still need solutions

rspuzio wrote:

Here is some of my perspective on this topic as a research scientist. In addition to classes, seminars and conferences moved online when universities closed their buildings. Based upon my experience over the past few months, here are what I see as strong and weak points.

The weak points have to do with the current limitations of online as opposed to in-person meetings. As time goes on, hopefully improvements in technology will overcome some of these limitations and, compensation for features of the old ways for which there might not be an adequate substitute, offer new features which would have hitherto been impossible.

As an instance of one such possible improvement, I recall a demo we had at a metacaugs meeting a few weeks back. There we were taken to a virtual reality park where one could stroll about and, as one got closer to a bench, the voices of people speaking would get louder and one could engage in the conversation, then stroll off to another bench and participate in a different conversation. One could also potentially use this software to set up a cybervenue for a conference with lecture rooms, rooms for discussion with whiteboards, chat area, etc. This could offer a richer experience than most online conferences nowadays running on standard conference call platforms.

The strongest points for me had to do with the way in which the current circumstances are making the global character of the scientific community mainfest. Somewhat paradoxically, limiting travel and having everyone stay at home has promoted globalization! A year ago, there might have been, say, a weekly graph theory seminar in Chicago, a weekly graph seminar in Tokyo. Each of these would be attended by local people and the occasional visitor. Once or twice a year, someone from Chicago might go to Tokyo to talk at the seminar there and vice-versa. But now that both seminars are held online, people from both Tokyo and Chicago routinely attend and speak at both seminars. That a particular seminar was organized by someone in Chicago or in Tokyo is no longer important, as they have all become worldwide events. Whereas, in the past, one might only have met colleagues from around the world once a year at an international conference, it is now becoming a daily occurrence.

Major institutions moved entirely online, I think that offers perspectives to attract a worldwide participation for quality learning, perhaps also at a lower cost (at least no need to relocate). This could imply more competition among institutions. Why study computer sciences at a local university if you could just as well enroll at MIT or Stanford? “Winner takes all dynamics” could be one of the consequences.

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