In today’s age in the land of computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets we can’t imagine anyone not connected to the web. The Internet has been changing the world for the last two decades but many are still left behind in the digital divide. In the United States alone over 6,000,000 students are taking online classes but still over 100,000,000 households lack broadband access. The good news is most people are opting for mobile devices. According to the UN More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets. 6 billion people of the world’s 7 billion have access to mobile phones but 4.5 billion have access to working toilets.
With that many people connected, more and more information is at their fingertips. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (WFHF) helped create WikiEducator, an open educational resource, along with the Commonwealth of Learning. Free courses are available online and through workshops. Their mission is to bring education to rural and hard-to-reach population through “wiki-to-print”. This process allows centers to print course materials to those who don’t have Internet access during learning workshops. This is currently in the beginning stages, but I would like to see this idea pushed further.
Just by doing a simple web search on “free courses” you will gain access to numerous sites such as MIT Open Courseware, Open Education Database, Udacity, and The Top Online College Courses and Classes. I would create an app that will pull data from these sites and act as a massive search. The user will type what they wish to learn and see what free courseware is offered. During the search the user can also choose to find courses in their native language as well as English. With the right funding the software can be developed. Ideally it should function similar to Lynda.com where users can keep track of their courses, completion certificates, watch lesion videos, ask questions and download exercise materials.