Yesterday, we looked at one part of the future of education: parents turning to private tutors to supplement school-administered learning. Our core point was that even as the old educational system changes, new jobs will emerge. Matthew Yglesias makes another important point about the bright outlook for jobs in the education field. Automation may not, he points out, be the job killer in education that it will be elsewhere:
The prospect of online education continues to attract a lot of interest and commentary in various circles, but I think the issue that people considering this need ponder has nothing to do with convention and signaling and everything to do with yoga. Specifically, what is it that’s driving all these people to show up in person at yoga classes. It would clearly be cheaper and more convenient to just unroll your yoga mat in your living room and work out while watching yoga videos.
This is surely right. While it’s cheaper and easier to sign up for an e-learning course, get out your pen and calculator at home, click a video, take notes, work through electronic exams, and so on, something really is lost when students don’t sit in a classroom with their peers, or when they can’t meet face-to-face with a professor during office hours. Feedback is vital: A yogi in a yoga studio, like a student in a classroom, gets real-time feedback from the teacher, personal advice and help.As Yglesias points out, increasing video distribution capabilities did not make people rely more on exercise videos. People still go to yoga classes in droves. Putting lectures online will not make everyone stay at home to learn. Often, it’s interacting with a teacher and other students that is the most valuable part of education.School and university structures are going to change, and online and distance learning will play a bigger role in the future than they have in the past—think of how Rosetta Stone is changing language learning.As more and more of the drudge work in manufacturing and information processing (white collar paper pushing) gets done by machines, demand for yoga classes and other educational opportunities will grow. The machines will change the way we work; they won’t abolish work, and they won’t abolish jobs.