Knowledge Is Data

Peng Ou (center), founder of Sunlands Online Education Group, rings a ceremonial bell during the company’s initial public offering (IPO) on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in the United States. VCG

Twenty years ago, Peter Drucker, father of modern management, launched a paid course on an internet platform called “Corpedia.” Every time after a student answered a question, Drucker, from another computer, commented with the words “very correct” or “very good” in a strong Vienna accent.

At that time, the concept of “online education” had not yet taken shape, and Drucker’s platform was more of an experiment. But the then 90-year-old Peter Drucker firmly believed that remote education would be the future of education, which, in his opinion, broke time and space constraints. “Imagine if young people in developing countries could access educational resources in developed countries through the internet—it would alleviate the problem of uneven distribution of educational resources and narrow the educational gap.”

In 2010, the successful operation of the Khan Academy, founded by Bangladeshi-American Salman Khan, attracted widespread attention around the world. Subsequently, with the strong impact of the large-scale financing of the three major U.S. MOOC platforms, the investment boom of global online education intensified. In 2013, considered the first year of China’s online education, Chinese internet giants began leveraging their traffic advantages to snatch a share of the online education industry. Meanwhile, traditional education institutions began setting up online education companies through mergers and joint ventures to penetrate the online education market.

Over the past five years, product upgrades and capital operations have happened simultaneously. As a result, according to data released by iResearch, the total online education market in China reached 191.7 billion yuan (US$27.9 billion) in 2017, to which the K-12 (from kindergarten to the 12th grade) online education market contributed 63.26 billion yuan (US$9.2 billion). The penetration rate of K-12 hit 33 percent of the total market of online education and is still on the rise. The online education market in China is expected to reach 371.8 billion yuan (US$54.1 billion) in 2019.

Today, internet technology has reached a stage of rapid development. The 4G revolution has hardly arrived and yet 5G is just around the corner. Smartphones and tablets, as conduits to online education, have become more popular and portable. All of these factors provide more favorable conditions for the development of online education. Characterized by high efficiency, convenience, resource interoperability, low threshold and low cost, online education breaks the time and space limits of traditional education, making it an inevitable trend of future education.

Today, as the internet emerges as a powerful medium for cross-cultural communication, online education may provide new and feasible solutions for global allocation of educational resources, enabling people from different countries and regions to enjoy the world’s best education and promoting the sharing of global educational resources. With the continuous deepening and expansion of the global scientific and technological revolution, the upgrading of technology is heralding a new education era, which will not only make knowledge more accessible, but also reshape ways of learning and thinking. The profound energy released by the integration of education and technologies such as cloud computing and big data will permit technology to better empower education.

In the future, resources afforded by online education must be tilted toward underdeveloped regions. Education is at the top of the Chinese government’s poverty reduction agenda. In recent years, China has invested considerably in poverty-stricken areas, which has greatly improved rural education conditions. How to provide more quality teachers and lesson content to students in poor areas in the future to improve their prospects has become a new and important topic. Education is an important weapon to break intergenerational transmission of poverty, which can be accelerated and guaranteed by sharing quality educational resources through online education. The internet enables full alignment of demand and supply of educational resources, and it also shines light on new ways to acquire and distribute quality educational resources.

The author is special assistant to the CEO of VIPKID, an online K-12 English-teaching platform.

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