The Internet has disrupted music publishing, encyclopedias, classified advertising, news and is poised to disrupt both television and the movies. What else?
Education is overdue, but most of today's academics still don't get it.
For decades, even centuries, we've seen increased productivity in agriculture, in industry and most recently in services. Productivity gains show up more useful output per person employed. One place where this has not happened is education, as the graphs below illustrate. Indeed, in education, schools compete on the basis of lower student faculty ratios, i.e. lower faculty productivity.
Individuals vary in how they best learn things but, in most cases, direct interaction with a teacher is a significant benefit. So if the Internet is just about better access to information or remote video interactions with teachers, it may be wonderful, but it's hardly disruptive. What's needed is some way to multiply the number of teachers, dramatically.
A suggestion of how this might come about, i.e of how the Internet might disrupt the traditional academic process, comes from italki.com. To quote Gang Lu,
italki is a language social network providing free language learning content. Unlike the traditional one-on-one education approach, italki is building an online community where any user can play two roles, tutor and learner. In italki, users can find language partners, post their foreign language questions which can be answered by other users, and join groups for language learning. The new version introduced a new feature called knowledge which is basically a Wiki service. Now users can not only share the language learning materials they uploaded but also collaborate on creating free language learning textbooks by their own. So italki is building probably the largest Wiki for language learning content!
This is not some academics opening their university course materials to the world (although I'm sure that's useful). These are individuals contributing course materials and, more importantly, tutoring each other. This approach tackles the hard problem, the student teacher ratio.
I'm sure there are other examples that I haven't stumbled on as yet. In any event, it will be interesting to see how this sector evolves. italki.com started in Shanghai and is already dealing with 16 languages and has global participation.