28 Jan 2018
4 min read
In this age of rapid technological advancement, education too has expanded beyond the physical walls of traditional classrooms and the constraints imposed by textbooks. Today, there is a significant number of educational resources--free one-stop websites, YouTube channels--available online that are aiding students to get an education that goes beyond just their curricula. This new approach, as exemplified by these online portals, has, one could say, revolutionised how we can get an education.
Now, whether this revolutionary mode of education can completely supplant traditional educational methods and emerge as a better learning avenue is still under debate. But, as a high-school graduate who has spent a fair share of my time on these courses, I can assure you that these educational platforms can help students learn a great deal outside of school.
One educational site I've used throughout high school is Khan Academy. Khan Academy provides free education to anyone who signs up; the academy essentially imparts knowledge via instructional videos and practice exercises. Khan Academy breaks free of the one-size-fits-all educational model by employing a model that students can personalise and schedule, according to their learning pace. Typically 15 to 22 minutes long, most tutorial videos on Khan Academy feature a pen-board layout, with a voiceover explaining different concepts that usually help complement what you learn in school. In addition, Khan Academy also provides the American and Canadian high school Advanced Placement courses; for Nepalis in my age group, these courses serve as a preview of what we can expect to learn from the liberal arts curricula of colleges in the US and Canada.
I started watching Khan Academy videos to prepare for my GCSEs, and the ease with which Salman Khan (the founder of Khan Academy) simplified the concepts and provided sample questions helped me understand the fundamentals of Physics--which was also useful for me during my SLC examination. Four years later, when I consulted Khan Academy for my SATs, I was impressed by the standard test layout and the questions (sourced from College Board, the organisation responsible for conducting the SAT) the website offered.
Statistically, Khan Academy users see an exponential growth in their learning curve. In a recent survey by Khan Academy, almost 65 per cent of 504 Stanford students, and 57 per cent of 159 students from Ivy League schools said that Khan Academy had proved extremely helpful in their learning. Another study revealed that an average of a 115-point increase in the SAT and PSAT exams correlated with 20 hours of practice undergone by students on Khan Academy.
But despite the extensive curricula covered by Khan Academy, Salman Khan was criticised for not being an authentic educator, as he does not have a pedagogic history, and for making minor errors in several videos. But Khan Academy has put these criticisms to rest by hiring specialised educators and making continual corrections (if any are needed to be made). As for me, I am of the opinion that Khan Academy is an extremely useful site that students can use to improve their academic performance and enhance their curriculum-based learning. One feature of Khan Academy that I think viewers may not like is their virtual chalkboard-learning method, which can be rather tedious and uninteresting for viewers. But this method is not used for all their videos.
Another curriculum-based educational learning portal--which makes use of the video format--is Crash Course. Crash Course is a YouTube channel that produces educational videos to do with traditional textbook content. These videos (which make use of animation and are presented by hosts) are fast-paced and visually engaging. Initiated by brothers John and Hank Green, Crash Course produces videos that cover the fundamentals of theories that are taught in US high schools and colleges, in under 15 minutes.
Crash Course videos are ideal if you want to gain a rudimentary understanding of any topic. With 23 playlists, each playlist dealing with a different subject, Crash Course videos sufficiently create an overview of the undergraduate liberal arts curriculum. However, because the brothers obviously can't package extremely granular details in under 15 minutes, students mustn't solely depend on Crash Course videos, especially if they want a deeper knowledge of their subject area of interest.
Crash Course videos usually feature a presenter/expert who provides the intros and added commentary during the course of a video. Graphic clips are inserted in the video when the subject matter gets a little too hard to understand, and humour is often used to explain concepts that might be too tedious for students to digest. Personally, I think Crash Course videos are great if you're trying to understand the skeletal framework of any subject. And I've regularly consulted Crash Course videos to get clarifications, clear misunderstandings and help with revisions. Crash Course covers more subjects than Khan Academy--like Philosophy, Ecology, Astronomy, Big History, to name a few--and high school students in Nepal can benefit highly from these lessons. But if your intent is to delve into the core of a subject, you will have to further consult other sites.
Instead of focusing on just your average school curricula, TED portals address everything under the sun, as it were. Technology, Entertainment, Design--or simply TED--is a non-profit media organisation that aims to disseminate ideas via educational videos. TED imparts educational content via three platforms: TED Talks, TEDx Talks and TED-Ed.
While TED Talks and TEDx Talks use a similar approach in spreading ideas and educational content, TED-Ed is a little different. Instead of employing educators, TED-Ed hosts a platform that educators use to develop interactive and educational videos by collaborating with animators. In fact, anyone can get involved with TED-Ed, either as an educator or as an animator.
TED-Ed videos are usually no longer than eight minutes. They make use of comical animation and a coherent, scripted voiceover, which helps viewers take in information with ease. TED-Ed videos usually break down interesting topics of all sorts. Granted, these videos make you more inquisitive, but be warned, they fall somewhat short of the intensive lectures you're used to in school.
TED Talks and TEDx Talks have the same intention of spreading ideas and knowledge, but they do so via short talks presented by experts; TED Talks, on the other hand, are organised by the TED organisation on a more global scale. TEDx Talks usually feature presenters who are locals of the community the talk is being hosted in.
TED Talks have covered a broad range of subjects ever since their inception. And while these talks may be informative and inspirational, they are directed to appeal to a broad-spectrum audience, rather than a classroom of similar-age students, and are usually more interestingly delivered than the usual classroom lecture. That said, I'd say the contribution these videos have on your curriculum learning is minimal. As a General Paper student, I think TED Talks can come in handy to explore various issues, but there's no guarantee they'll boost your academic performance.
(Tuladhar is a recent A-Level graduate)