Mindgolia or Minegolia?

Three Questions to David Porter, CEO of eCampusOntario

eCampusOntario is a not for profit, owned by the 45 universities and colleges that make up the higher education sector in Ontario, Canada. It is government funded. It provides a learning directory to distance education and online education for learners, and resources and services for instructors – in total 16 000 courses and over 700 programs. Netopia talked to its CEO David Porter, who started by relaying this prescient anecdote:

“I was on a government-funded ICT research mission to Mongolia, which has an economy that relies heavily on raw materials. My host Dr. Enkhbat Dangaasuren, a former Green Party member of parliament, asked our team the rhetorical question of where the country wants to go: Are we Mindgolia or Minegolia? It was a wonderful question to guide our work.”

Will machines replace humans?

No, not in the purest sense. There will be lots of low skill, repetitive tasks that robots and automated systems will replace, but high-level knowledge and getting those machines into practice and monitoring the outcome of that work will still be human activity.

There will be lots of low skill, repetitive tasks that robots and automated systems will replace

Downstream for sure we know that artificial intelligence will increasingly be important in the kind of decision-making and application processes where lots of data can facilitate decisions. Surgery relies on both data and doctors, medicine uses lots of data right now to make informed decisions, evidence-based.

Can online learning replace schools?

I think online learning has the potential to deal with the knowledge portions of schools, and the flexibility of online education means students can build their schedules to fit their life situation.

Online learning has the potential to deal with the knowledge portions of schools

But it cannot fully replicate the social component of learning that comes when learners are together. At least not until online systems are better at those social situations where interaction happens, this part remains somewhat problematic. Having a Facebook-friend is not the same as having a real friend.

Also, many students want to leave high school and go away to college and explore. They like to pick colleges away from home in order to have the opportunity to interact with a more diverse group, face-to-face. I’m not sure how to replicate that online.

Can skills be defined? If we overly define them, do we invite automation?

Good point. The skills, needs and requirements necessary to be effective in the workplace will be more about social capability in future. Lifelong learning is a permanently in beta condition,

Lifelong learning is a permanently in beta condition

so that we have to accept how to deal with new knowledge and skills in an ongoing manner. We learn throughout life. I like the idea that was presented on stage today about a life-long learning account. This does not only support life-long learning but proactively promotes it. More and more people need to understand and deal with this reality.

The discussion on lifelong learning in the EU had a sense of newness about it today, but in other parts of the world people have been thinking about how to facilitate lifelong learning for a longer time, I believe.

Updated with the name Dr. Enkhbat Dangaasuren