Get smarter with online education and big data

GetSmarter, an online education company based in Cape Town, is being sold for an astonishing $103 million (about R1,4 billion) to an American technology education company, 2U.


Both companies focus on delivering “high-quality, high-touch digital higher education from world-class colleges and universities”, 2U said in a statement.


It’s not easy to wrap one’s head around this staggering amount of money changing hands. One question that comes to mind is: Can an online education company really be worth that much?  Here’s another, probably more important question: Is this transaction an indication of how important distance education, online learning and technology-based education have become?


The answer to both questions is probably yes. The face of education is indeed changing and the opportunities technology brings to the table have already led to a host of new approaches being developed for education.


In this edition of Eish! you can read about one such approach that is particularly interesting:  learning through table-top and electronic board games. In this article it becomes clear that board games play a vital role in how the new generation of learners, the so-called millennials, learn and acquire new information and skills.


Online education goes hand in hand with the development of state-of-the-art technology – using and adding to the huge amounts of existing digital information. This brings us to another related topic, namely big data, which refers to extremely large data sets that are compiled during research and analysed to determine trends and patterns. In our “Focus on” article in this edition, you can read more about the NWU’s big data initiatives in the area of data-driven research.


All things considered, one thing is certain: terms such as eLearning, open and distance learning, massive online courses (MOOCs) and big data are the new buzzwords in the education environment.


And if you wonder how on earth the mass of digital information that is created every day is going to be stored in the future, you can click here to discover how the information-storing DNA molecule may help us with long-term storage of digital information.


In the meantime: happy reading!