Swiss way to personalised education

Smilla won’t have the stress of setting up an efficient learning group with people she doesn’t know; she’ll receive suggestions as to which students would be ideal to work with on important basics in the online modules. The data generated here will serve to continuously improve the quality of the learning modules and, of course, will also flow back into her personal education data account.  

Overcrowded lecture halls a thing of the past

Personal contact with the professors in assignments, project work and discussion groups will still be important for Smilla and will be the true asset of a physical university space such as ETH. However, the learning modules – today’s lectures – will be run in small, carefully chosen groups: by 2030 there’ll be no huge lecture halls packed with hundreds of participants. With the personalisation of education, boundaries between disciplines and levels, and between education and training, will become increasingly blurred. And in this way, a continuous learning space will emerge where every individual benefits to the maximum.

SRG to get involved  

This may all sound utopian, but it’s already true today, at least to some extent. There are online learning platforms nowadays where every text and every click is registered and analysed. The student learning profiles thus gleaned serve as a business model for these providers. And while I believe such offerings have their uses, they entail a new digital dependency on multinational companies. Is this what we want?

Switzerland stands an excellent chance of becoming a leading provider of top-quality, fair learning content and educational facilities. No other country of this size has five universities ranking among the top 200 internationally. Both universities and schools are generously publicly funded, as is the Swiss Radio and Television Company (SRG). According to the new Director General Gilles Marchand, the SRG wants to focus more on information and “edutainment”. And this is where I see the potential: our universities, technical colleges and schools have first-class teachers that are experts in generating first class content, while SRG is the expert when it comes to delivering digital content.

Let me give you an example: Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) and ETH have already shown with their “Einfach Physik” series how the laws of physics can be packed into an appealing video format. Imagine if every teacher, from primary school teacher to university professor, were able to professionally implement their favourite topic in a digital learning module with an entrance and exit test in four languages on a Swiss learning platform (where the educational data is not the business model). Each user of this content would receive their data in their personal account. Top-quality, fair education would become a readily accessible Swiss export.

For our granddaughter Smilla, I envisage an exciting, and hopefully fair, personalised education. Swiss schools and universities will provide her with first-class content, and this will be implemented as publicly accessible online modules with the help the SRG so that not only Smilla, but everyone will benefit. For she’d certainly like to come to ETH Zurich one day – although for the moment she just wants to be a princess.

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Author: Shirley