Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, July 2, 2012

Future of Education: Breaking The Connection Between Learning and Assessment - Epic 2020

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In the not too distant future you will learn new key skills through free or low-cost professional online courses, available both from prestigious world-class academic institutions as well as from private experts. Companies will in turn tap into these new learning ecosystems and knowledge providers to discover and hire their top talent.


The future of learning and education is one of the topics that interests me the most, and Epic 2020 is a good provocative piece on what the future of education and certification may soon look like.

I in fact believe that, besides the final epilogue, the unrolling of true recent events and the new prospected future ones, as depicted inside Epic 2020, is very realistic indeed.

Traditional educational and academic institutions may be indeed on the verge of a major revolution affecting the whole work marketplace, as they will need to face and act upon the successful evidence that new approaches to learning and working are increasingly providing.


The Future of Education: Epic 2020

Duration: 10':24"

Full integral text transcription of the original video soundtrack

It is the best of times. It is the worst of times.

In 2020, people have access to a breadth and depth of knowledge unimaginable in an earlier age.

However, schools as you know them have ceased to exist.

Academia's fortunes have waned. Twentieth century universities are an afterthought, a lonely remnant of a not too distant past.


Let's find out.

Where It All Started

Sal Khan


The road to 2020 began in 2009.

Sal Khan starts the Khan Academy. His goal? To educate the world.

Khan's low-tech, conversational tutorials suggest an educational transformation that de-emphasizes classrooms, campus, and administrative infrastructures, as well as brand name instructors.

Videos are hosted on YouTube and provided for free.

With an instructor of one, the Khan Academy offers thousands of videos, but the real power is in its exercise and assessment system. Teachers, coaches and mentors can set up groups of students with an exercise system that provides an infinite number of questions coupled with hints and links to content material.

Mastery is required before moving on and a game system of energy points and badges provide instant rewards. Time on task data is measured in seconds. The system measures learning.

Mozilla Open Badges


In 2011, Mozilla announces its Open Badges Project. It is a program that recognizes skills and achievements. It is open to companies, organizations, and individuals to issue, earn and display badges across the web.

Badges represent an alternative to accreditation and degrees.

Prof. Thrun


At the end of 2011, Sebastian Thrun, a computer science professor at Stanford, conducts an experiment by offering a free, no pre-requisite online ten-week course in the Introduction to Artificial Intelligence that parallels his on-campus course.

One hundred and sixty thousand people register. During the course, students post questions to the class blog, where other students use the Facebook system of likes. The best questions rise to the top.

Students then submit answers and are rated by their peers with an Amazon five-star system for the most helpful answer. The best answers rise to the top.

Students are teaching students.

23,000 students passed the online course. 253 with perfect scores.

Professor Thrun realizes that during this session, at 160,000, he has taught more students the subject than all of the rest of the computer science professors in the world.

The 23,000 who passed the course represent more students than most faculty will teach in their career. Out of the 200 Stanford students attending the traditional course, only 41 were in class at the end of the course. The other 159 opted for the online asynchronous presentation. Professor Thrun gave one of his hardest examinations. The on-campus passing rate was the highest ever.



2012 would be remembered as the year everything began.

January, Professor Sebastian Thrun resigns his ten-year position at Stanford and launches Udacity to offer an engineering and science curriculum.

March, Udacity launches six computer science courses, all online, all free.

Udacity will contract with the very top students to represent them as an employment agent. Udacity's model is to connect world class talent to world class companies that happily pay a fee of 20 percent of their first year's salary.

50 students hired equate to a million dollars of revenue. The employment value of the top five percent funds a free education for the rest of the world.

Tuition is abandoned as a concept.



MIT opens registration on its MIT-X courses to start in the fall. The courses will use the latest interactive technology, and are free. For a modest payment, a certificate will be provided.120,000 sign up in the first month.



In April, TED announces the creation of TED Ed. TED Ed will follow the compelling video format of TED, and will feature the best teachers in the world, paired with the best media production teams. TED Ed will be free.

Student Loans and Fee Increases


The Federal Government announces that student loans exceed one trillion dollars, more than credit cards and car loans.

Universities across the country announce tuition and fee increases double the rate of inflation.

Pell Grants Gone


The elections of 2012 result in legislation that eliminates Pell Grants and terminates the student loan exemption from bankruptcy.

Loans Collapse - Student Revolt


2013, the student loan industry collapses. Scholarship funders begin shifting their focus from providing individual student loans to funding organizations that provide free, online course content.

Across the county, students revolt over the cost of education, and demand the elimination of a set price for content and assessment. If they take content online for free, then they demand to pay only for the assessment.

In 2014, flagship state universities respond to student, parent and legislative demands by providing transferable course credits for demonstrated ability rather than class attendance.

The connection between content and assessment is broken.

The Possible Future: Applezon


Apple, with its massive cash hoard, buys Amazon to form Applezon.

Kindle and MacBooks are merged into the largest educational content distribution system in the world. iTunesU is expanded as an educational app platform, where teachers can offer their content for free.

International course enrollment replaces peer-reviewed articles in tenure considerations.

Applezon uses the Amazon preference matching algorithm to match personal skill levels with company skill requirements, and moves to the student employment agent funding model.

Google Response


In response, Google buys two non-profits, the Khan Academy and Udacity.

The Khan Academy has over 10,000 video offerings, for K to introductory college courses, that is now combined with Udacity's 500 courses in engineering and science.

Google expands the Udacity student employment agent model to companies at international, national, and local levels.

Academic Certification Ceases to Be The Key Gateway To Professional Work Access

The educational wars of the late decade are notable for who does not participate. Other than the elite schools such as MIT, Stanford and Harvard, colleges and universities sit on the sidelines as Applezon and Google battle for world student market share.

In 2018, badges replace degrees as the preferred skill validation for companies.

Except for the elite universities, companies no longer recruit on-campus, preferring instead the lifelong learning and training approaches of Applezon and Google.

By 2019, residential college campuses are now maturational holding grounds for the children of the wealthy. Their focus is on comfortable living accommodations, gourmet food, recreation, social activities, and sports teams. A few trophy faculty remain to lead discussions.


On Monday, June 22nd, 2020, Google unleashes EPIC. EPIC, the Evolving Personal Information Construct.

EPIC not only understands everything that you know, but also it knows everything that you need to know to be successful in your professional, social and personal life.

EPIC constructs and provides just in time knowledge and information that keeps you current and synchronized with everyone around you.

At its best, for those that use EPIC, they are connected to the world and those that control it. They know everything and everyone that they need to know.

At its worst, and for too many, EPIC is not used, and the world is an increasingly misunderstood and frightening place. They retreat from involvement, and seek the security of a leader, an EPIC leader.

If you want more information on the topics presented in Epic 2020, look at this complementary video entitled "The Breaking Point":

Duration: 24':20"

Check out also the original EPIC movie and transcription from 2004.


Epic 2020 - Production credits

Original video source:
Script and narration by Bill Sam
Video and graphics by Nate Marshall
Music by Minus Kelvin

Original video transcription by Robin Good/Castingwords. First published on MasterNewMedia on July 2nd 2012 as "Future of Education: Breaking The Connection Between Learning and Assessment - Epic 2020".

Photo credits:
Sal Khan - Khan Academy
Prof Thrun - Stanford University
Pell Grants - DegreeSearch
Applezon logo - Epic2020
Stop the cuts - Epic2020

Other logos and trademarks are copyright of their respective companies.

Robin Good -
Readers' Comments    
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posted by Robin Good on Monday, July 2 2012, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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