The fundamental question of the web is—what is its purpose?
To be an almost totally commercial surveillance apparatus—or to follow what Tim Berners-Lee and many academics thought that it is to be, a decidedly un-Facebook-like tool used primarily for education. In that vein, if you ever had even an inkling of intellectual curiosity in you, then edX will be a revelation for you, as it has been for me.
Much of Facebook, Twitter, apps for this or that, are relegated to flotsam by this MOOC (massive open online course) platform put out by MIT and Harvard starting only in 2013.
The platform has also more recently been totally open-sourced so natch—I installed it on Digital Ocean in a Docker container—so I will review its technology at a later date, but crucial for now is what it offers in terms of the ability to learn—and herein, it shines.
While I am currently enrolled in more that six classes, including:
Minds and Machines
Super-Earths and Life
Digital Branding and Engagement
Introduction to Cloud Computing
Climate Change: The Science
Space Mission Design and Operations
…which is basically the course load (or more) of a typical university student, it is particularly the climate change course I wish to point out here as an exemplar of perfection.
There is no better way than to reprint the review I gave it myself on edX:
MOOC’s have come a long way since I last used them and this course is the first that will have been worth my while to actually finish. Indeed, the subject matter, course materials, and lecturer are of such high quality, and the seamless use of the edX platform so good—that this rivals most of the real world classes from university I took in terms of how much I have learnt. My only problem now is because I understand so much more about climate change, that I am scared as hell!
So as you can see, it is that good. The point here is that edX is almost totally a product of mashing up the current state of the internet with ivy league and other high quality teachers and classes. The climate change class is given out of the University of British Columbia, BC being the seat of the environmental movement, spawning Greenpeace, Adbusters and similar.
I read recently that edX is stretched financially (at least at Harvard), along with the professors who produce the courses often with large crews—and must put in something like 400 hours for a decent course. The question then becomes why are Facebook, Snapchat and other frivolity financed to the teeth with tens of billions of dollars when the future of education (in my view) is hobbling around chasing after peanuts.
(In case you are wondering, edX is on the whole free, unless you want to pay $50 per course for a verified credit)
edX is so good in fact, it should be the activists, the Quebec student movement, Idle no More, and other equivalents outside Canada, protesting to fund edX as a human right—astonishingly, high quality education for the whole world has suddenly become possible.
That should be the future of the internet: not more Facebook and Internet.org.
See also edX is an Idea.