Feb 8, 2013

Paradigm shift in learning

The last decade has seen a tremendous shift in the way we learn, just about anything. I remember vividly during my Engineering days (not so long ago) when learning meant picking up a text book or a reference book, sit down with a pencil/marker and read. There wasn't much collaboration, interaction or discussion during or after class hours. It was a one-way source of communication from the lecturer to the student. Internet was still at a nascent stage and neither accessible nor affordable (browsing centers were few and used to charge anywhere between 30-50 Rs per hour).

As I look at the way things have changed for the better, I feel inspired, excited and at the same time, overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff one can learn in a lifetime. Being in the technology sector, I spent the initial years of my career, googling for tutorials and learning programming languages along with the skills needed at my workplace related to databases and data warehousing. It was still mostly text based where you read online instead of a book. But there was one distinct advantage. Given the need for practice when it comes to programming, you can immediately fire up a terminal/text editor, try out problems and code right there. Learning became much more involved because of this flexibility.

The next shift was interaction through various tech forums where one can post questions/doubts and someone would voluntarily help out from somewhere in the world. At one point of time, searching through such forums is sufficient to get answers to just about any queries.

Then came the videos and podcasts where demonstrations and structured sharing of views/theories enables anyone interested to pick up a new skill. The combination of visual and auditory learning has enhanced the overall experience.

Today, there is a proliferation of numerous learning platforms - Khan Academy, Code Academy, SkillShare, MIT open courseware, Coursera to name a few. And there are audio books, TED talks, e-books and much more. All one needs is commitment and passion towards continuous learning.

I'm a firm believer of the thought "Learning shouldn't stop with education. It should continue till you are around". This whole paradigm shift in the learning opportunities is exciting and it would be interesting to observe how my daughter goes about the whole learning curve once she starts school.

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