Learning astrophysics on YouTube

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Learning astrophysics on YouTube

The author is a national news editor and an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“I learn astrophysics on YouTube.” On Nov. 25, I gave a lecture on the fourth industrial revolution for the newly appointed judges at the Judicial Research and Training Institute, and I asked the future judges whether they knew what “singularity” meant. It refers to the point when artificial intelligence supersedes human capability, a concept from physics. The center of a black hole where curvature and density of time and space become infinite is called singularity.

While it is a difficult idea that people who did not major in physics would not know, one judge explained it accurately. When I asked if he was a science major or reads physics books, he said no. Instead, he is interested in space and likes to watch YouTube. Others also said they learn various knowledge on YouTube. A judge who worked at a law firm before being appointed said he often looked up precedents on YouTube.

YouTube is now a school. You can learn how to cook and how to change a car battery. Lately, it is expanding to knowledge beyond simple information. A science high school student in Seoul learns quantum physics on YouTube on the weekends. He said he can watch lectures by Nobel Prize winners he doesn’t have access to at school.

Futurist Thomas Frey said that half of universities will disappear by 2030. People go to college for diplomas, but a diploma’s influence is diminishing. As MOOCs — massive open online courses — are rapidly spreading, you don’t need to go to class if you are only listening to the lecture. We only need one professor who is the best at teaching for economics 101. The same goes for basic classes on law and chemistry.
Now, what should professors do? Stanford University’s Chief Technology Office Paul Kim says professors should engage in coaching, not teaching. The role of teachers and professors in the future is to provide insight and perspective for students to explore knowledge and build problem-solving skills on their own.

To change the cramming method of education that makes students write the right answer even when the problem is wrong, teachers and professors must change first. They should be more sensitive to changes in technology and social environment. Classes should focus on discussion-centered creative learning. No professor should use an outdated syllabus out of mannerism.

Until the 20th century, education was supply-oriented. As admission resources were overflowing, there was a shortage of instructors. But now, the needs of students — the users — come first. The University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world founded in the 11th century, weeds out incompetent professors and obsolete majors after consultation with students. If a university is not as good as YouTube in the 21st century, what should we do with it?

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 23, Page 30
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