Online classes and lectures have existed for years - but taking an online class is often about as exciting as watching grass grow. Content can be dry and boring - and even videos from the best institutions lack production quality. Classes taught in a classroom environment rarely translate to compelling online videos; the professor often appears far off in the distance, the audio and video quality are poor and there is no opportunity for interaction. As a result, only the most committed students have the discipline to pursue the online coursework.
This year, however, has been pivotal for online education. Dramatic improvements in production techniques, content that is specifically tailored to the online medium and interactive systems have started a veritable revolution.
The real pioneer in online learning was the Khan Academy (http://khanacademy.org). Started by Sal Khan to tutor his niece and nephews in Algebra, Khan Academy now covers dozens of subjects like Physics, Biology, Economics and even Art History. Khan’s success is in great part thanks to his delivery. The informal style and short format of the 3,200 videos make learning both fun and accessible.
Earlier this year another big university came online, Udacity (http://udacity.com), which was focused on teaching Computer Science. Started by professors from Stanford and some of the brightest minds at Google, Udacity brings decades of teaching experience and incredible talent to the table.
One way in which Udacity has differentiated itself is with its hands-on approach to learning. As any experienced developer will tell you, the best way to learn programming is to do it. Reading books and listening to lectures may help you understand the theory - but only by applying those techniques and experiencing the cycle of designing, writing and debugging software can you truly learn the trade. Udacity realized this early on, and designed their courses to put your knowledge to the test - challenging you to write programs that exercise your knowledge. This approach, coupled with immediate feedback from their automated grading systems makes learning computer science online superior to any physical classroom.
Taken together these two websites offer unprecedented resources for those who want to learn new skills.
The revolution currently taking place in education is a bit like the one that took place with the invention of the motion picture. Before film, we were all dependent on local playhouses and theaters for our entertainment. If your local actors weren’t very good, you just had to suffer through it and your entertainment was doomed to be subpar. But with the advent of film, we were able to watch the best actors in the world put on a show for us, no matter where we were. We could watch those performances at any time, rewind them to see our favorite parts again and again, and view them from virtually anywhere.
The same was largely true for education. The quality of your education was largely based on the quality of your teachers. This was great for the few who could afford to go to prestigious universities, but not so great for the rest of us.
Now anybody can go online and be taught mathematics or programming by the best teachers in the world, using online video lectures which you can watch at your convenience. And those lectures can be improved year over year based on student feedback.
It isn’t hard to see how such a change benefits the students of Rwanda. As the affordability and speed of Internet access continues to improve, so does the availability of this material. And since it is all free, students in Rwanda now have access to the same outstanding education that the rest of the world enjoys.
Of course having great lectures and exercises is only part of the solution, you still need someone to ask questions to when you get stuck and it helps to have a community of people learning with you. And that’s where the kLab comes in.
If you want to learn how to program, take CS101 at Udacity.com. It doesn’t require any prior knowledge, yet in six weeks it will teach you how Google searches the web. You’ll study some of the basic fundamentals of computer science, and establish an important foundation for your future career.
Like any college course it will require a lot of hard work and dedication, but the material is world-class and taught incredibly well. The kLab can help you download the videos for the course so you can watch them offline, and whenever you get stuck, kLab members and mentors are always available to help.
Programming isn’t easy, it takes a real passion to get good at it, but we are at a unique point in history where those with that passion have everything they need to succeed. When that passion is paired with the kLab and the resources it offers, anyone can get a world-class education at their own pace, around their own schedule and all absolutely free. Now that is truly revolutionary.
When coming to kLab, there is one thing in mind, a space to think and collaborate. My expectation in the space was to find people that could work within our startup company Zilencio Creativo's project and bring it to life. Coming from a technical background with a passion for branding I needed people with programming skills to team up with so that we harness our efforts and create an impactful product.kLab environment and culture
kLab is a serene environment for developers, IT enthusiasts and interested parties of a growing ICT community in Rwanda fostering intellect and entrepreneurial spirit. “The space gives one a peace of mind to work, providing a professional space to engage with other tenants and experienced mentors” says Ara. kLab brings like-minded innovators together and give them the resources they need to explore their ideas, learn from each other, and develop innovative solutions. kLab is a technology space enabling ambitious entrepreneurs come together and develop their trailblazing ideas into successful businesses.Opportunities and exposure at kLab
Ara’s startup company, Zilencio Creativo emerged as the 2012 finalist for the Startup World competition in Kigali. “As we prepare ourselves to travel to Sillicon Valley to compete globally, we are working hard on our winning crowdfunding project prototype” says Ara. My company was also selected to be part of local ICT companies that went to showcase their products at this year’s ITU Telecom World in Dubai, with this our team considers this opportunity and award possible only by the exposure provided by kLab.
With people you create experiences; kLab is such a space to provide you with both an experience and a community to engage with. For any technology person out there, for any person who has an idea that can get into the ICT field, I recommend to join the kLab community.
Sean Stapleton, an American local resident donated technical books to kLab. Sean is a freelancer software developer who has been living in Rwanda for 2 years. The books he gave cover topics such as; foundation of computer Science, several programming languages. He also gave technology magazines and journals covering latest global tech news.
This was done in the spirit of promoting collaboration, one of kLab’s core values being fostered among its community. The kLab community believes that through collaboration, sharing informative resources and openness, the growing Tech community in Rwanda will keep achieving a lot towards the nation’s aspiration to become a regional ICT hub.
The kLab community really appreciates Sean initiative and is looking forward to other initiatives that would nurture the Rwandan Tech community.