Online Education via the internet has been a significantly growing field over the last decade, and has been moving from a “Nice to Have” for university students, to an essential part of any education from age 5 to 105. There was a great op-ed recently from Bill Gates (who The Safety Edcuator definitely admire much more for his philanthropic efforts then his Microsoft efforts) on Online Learning (which was also reflected in his annual letter). We really liked this paragraph about the use of online education:
“Before a child even starts primary school, she will be able to use her mom’s smartphone to learn her numbers and letters, giving her a big head start,” he speculates. “Software will be able to see when she’s having trouble with the material and adjust for her pace. She will collaborate with teachers and other students in a much richer way.” Career paths, Gates speculates, will be built into this new education system — students will be able to lift themselves out of poverty by figuring out the requirements for their chosen field and fulfilling them with online classes. And software will connect students to distant teachers and each other.”
Bill Gates’ review is focused on third world countries but the benefits can also easily be used by essentially anyone. What makes online education so important is that:
- It can be targeted very specifically to you or your child’s individual needs – which is not always possible at a normal school.
- It can be based on topics that your school may not cover, for example programming,
- It can be conducted at any time, not just during school time.
- When designed properly it can be more interactive and provide more capacity for learning then at a normal school (on an hour per hour basis).
- Due to the fact that thousands of people can do the course at the same time it can promote a competitive edge to your studies. The name for these courses are Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
The disadvantages are that:
- There is no face-to-face social interaction – so school is still important!
- There may be little incentive for a child do the work online unless someone is sitting next to them to assist or ‘push’ them.
- You generally need a reasonable internet connection (which should be available within ASEAN-Australian countries).
Essentially online by itself is NOT sufficient, the best mix of education is called Blended Learning, which is a mix of both face-to-face education in a normal school plus on-line learning. various studies have shown that blended learning is the most effective method. Knowing this there are some questions you may ask:
- But at what age should online education start? The Australian Government recommends TOTAL screen time (including computers, TV’s, tablets, phones, etc) to be: “Children under two should steer clear of the screen altogether. Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than an hour a day. And children aged 5-18 years should have no more than two hours”. The textbook The Developing Person Through the Life Span (Kathleen Stassen Berger, Worth Publishers, 2011, page 276) also states “six major organizations (the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association) recommend that parents limit their children’s television watching, with no electronic media at all allowed for children under age 2. Based on the fact that online learning would take around an hour, and in general children aged 2-5 would watch additional television above this online leaning then NO children below age 5 should use online learning.
- Some of the apps listed on the last dot point under the section for children aged 5-10 of this report may be acceptable for short (15min) periods for children aged 3 to 5. Sesame Street also has a great range of free online programs for kids which can be used for children aged 3 to 5 for short (15min) periods.
- Is television itself sufficient? Television is NOT interactive and in general does not provide an educational experience for young children from 0-5, various studies have shown that as the amount of television watched increases the language skills of the child decreases.
The Gates Foundation actually conducted their own independent study on the effectiveness of online education, and can be found at the renowned research institute SRI. From this study, the Australian Government recommendations above, Bill Gates op-ed and our own personal reviews we have found the following online courses (and other online resources)to be the most highly recommended.
For children aged 5-10
At this age children should be more focused on game-based learning on core subjects (e.g. life skills, language, numbers and maths, etc), and in general should be supervised at ALL times. As per the above only spend 1 hour per day maximum with your child on online education.
- E-Learning for Kids – A non-profit based in USA and Netherlands that offers FREE specially designed online programs in science, math, the environment, computers, health, language, arts and life skills. Available in Dutch and English.
- Quipper School – A for-profit company based in the UK, providing FREE online educational programs for kids. What makes this company unique as it appears to be the largest ASEAN localised program, with native language support for Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, UK, Russia, Turkey, India and Mexico.
- Kahn Academy – Arithmetic – As your child gets to age 6-7 and older (and if they show interest) you can start on early maths courses from Kahn Academy, a non-profit and the biggest free video based learning resource online.
- Kahn Academy – Getty Museum – Kid friendly videos from the Getty Museum.
- Google Cultural Institute – An amazing site where you can roam the halls of the world biggest and most famous art galleries and world wonders. If you cannot see it in real life this is the next best thing, and may entice your child to learn more about the arts.
- EducationCity / Starfall – Both websites offer educational kids programs via the internet for an annual fee. Both have been around for over a decade, with EducationCity being used in 15,500 schools in the UK, and Starfall’s use in school being successfully tested (not independently though). Both are in English only.
- Bill Nye the Science Guy – Sorry everyone, not an online course, but we just had to include this. Bill Nye recorded 100 episodes on science from 1993 to 1998, and so far nothing has come close to beating his style of teaching. We learn something new from every episode. Unfortunately they don’t have full episodes on his official YouTube channel, you can seem some on this unofficial channel, or you will need to purchase or download them elsewhere.
- Ultimate Word Games Guide – This guide lists a variety of high-quality, free to use word games on the internet.
- Computer Games:
- Portal 2 – A recent study on undergraduates indicated that the game Portal 2 (unfortunately not available on phones or tablets) showed a statistical improvement after 8 hours of play in “each of the three composite measures—problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence”.
- Minecraft – A game that your kids may already be aware of, think of it like a virtual lego, but with the capabilities of building anything (including a working scientific calculator!). An incredibly powerful tool. For children it is probably best to play on a tablet (available on both Android and Apple), and ensure for younger children that you select “Peaceful” in the settings so no enemies spawn.
- These are the top educational apps we could find specifically for your Android and Apple tablets, apps which can help your child learn about the world via the interactivity of the tablet. Unfortunately these are all paid apps but we could not find any equivalent quality free apps. When looking at the price consider that you buying the equivalent of a children’s book.
- Barefoot World Atlas [Apple] – Geography / Animals
- 80 Days [Apple/Android] – Geography / Interactive Fiction
- Fish School [Apple] – Letters / Numbers
- Bugs and Buttons [Apple/Android] – Letters / Numbers
- Metmorphabet [Apple] – Letters / Vocabulary
- Reading Rainbow [Apple] – Reading
- Elmo Loves 123s [Apple/Android (Amazon)] – Counting
- Bug Art [Apple/Android] – Art
For children from age 10 up to adults aged 110
For older children and adults the options really open up, it is best to focus on subjects that you would not normally get to learn or on subjects that you are having trouble in at school or university. For example we think that all children should learn programming as computers will continue to become a more central part of all of our lives in the future, programming courses are available from most of the below links. When thinking what else to study keep in mind our previous post on the ability of the Arts to assist you in STEM subjects.
- Kahn Academy – A non-profit that provides FREE courses on essentially anything you can think of. They are video based (so you need a good internet connection) but seem like you are working one-on-one with an experienced teacher. Kahn Academy can be started from around 6-7 (depending on your child’s interests), and goes up to university-style courses.
- MIT OpenCourseWare – One of the best universities in the world offers it’s course materials for free via online learning. You can even download all of the materials (including videos) for later reference, however you cannot obtain a Certificate of Completion from MIT if you complete the course (see the next link).
- edX Certification – A non-profit where for FREE you can complete individual courses from some of the top universities in the world (Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, etc) and receive either an Honor Code Certificate for FREE (which does not verify your identity), or for a small fee a Verified Certificate of Achievement (which verifies your identity).
- edX XSeries – For a small fee you can complete a series of courses on one subject from some of the top universities in the world (Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, etc) and receive a Certificate when you complete and pass the series of courses on the subject. This would look good on any CV or Resume as it offers a series of courses, not just a single one.
- Coursera / Udacity / Open University – All three are for-profit online resources that offer university courses with certification (for a fee). They also offer free courses without certification. Each one focuses on different subjects so best to check then all out if none of the other resources have what you are looking for.
- Duolingo – A free language-learning tool based on gamification. A great way to learn another language.
- Gojimo – An app specific for high school test/exam revision.
- Computer Games:
- Rocksmith – Not really online, but a very effective digital screen-based electric guitar (and bass) teaching tool, available on PC and all consoles, that can be used with any electric guitar. This is pricy but a good tool.
We know for a lot of our readers the English language is a second or third language, for native language tools see Quipper School above, or see the following:
- Kahn Academy – Fully translated into Spanish, French and Portuguese, however the videos have subtitles for 50+ languages.
- edX – Currently being translated into 76 languages using volunteers via the Transifex platform. The most complete languages are Spanish, Lithuanian and Arabic. Try volunteering to improve your native language in edX!
In summary we would highly recommend you look at how you can expand you, your children and your families knowledge with these FREE tools available online right now. If there are any online tools that we have missed that you love please tell us via the comments on this page or on Facebook.
Thanks to Flickr user DFID for the great photo.
Sam has over a decade of experience in the design and operation of complex processing plants, he provides a strong technical background to the site in relation to safe equipment design and operation. Sam, a father of two children, has a B.Eng. (Chem) (Hons) and a Master of Business and Technology from Australia.