Learning Management Systems (LMS), PDFs, and online text-based learning have been around since 1995, marking the dawn of educational technology (ed-tech). However, the true revolution in ed-tech began in 2008 with the advent of the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The industry has expanded significantly since then.
As reported by Forbes, the ed-tech sector is expected to grow annually by 16.5% from 2022 to 2030. This suggests a booming industry, but is that really the case?
Centralized vs Decentralized Educational Systems
Historically, our education system has operateds within a centralized framework. This top-down approach often benefits those in power while widening the gap between decision-makers and those affected by these decisions, such as students and teachers.
In recent years, a new paradigm has emerged: decentralized education. This approach has been discussed in political circles for decades and focuses on upskilling and reskilling. Unlike centralized systems, decentralized education is not limited to specific institutions or organizations. It allows for a more democratic distribution of knowledge and decision-making, bridging the gap between teachers, administrators, and students.
Today, the rise of Web3 technology is further accelerating the growth of decentralized education. Various platforms like Metaschool, Studyum, and Web3 University are emerging, although they are still in their infancy.
This leads us to a crucial question: Are decentralized education platforms superior to their centralized counterparts, or is a balanced approach more effective?
Comparing Centralized and Decentralized Ed-Tech Platforms
Both centralized and decentralized ed-tech platforms have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. Well-known centralized platforms like Chegg and Khan Academy have leveraged artificial intelligence to stand out. The key question is: which educational approach is leading the way?
This blog post evaluates centralized and decentralized platforms based on three key criteria:
1. Transparency in Education
Previous experiments with decentralized education have yielded mixed outcomes, making it challenging to form a definitive conclusion. According to the Canadian Education Association, however, decentralization promotes greater local involvement. This enhances accountability and responsiveness to student needs, thereby improving resource allocation and reducing transparency issues.
Furthermore, decentralized data management systems significantly elevate the level of transparency. Centralized systems are more susceptible to data manipulation, delays, and other issues due to inadequate oversight.
For instance, the fraudulent diploma industry, which earns an estimated $7 billion annually worldwide, thrives in centralized environments. In contrast, decentralized ed-tech platforms are not controlled by a single entity and focus on data distribution, making them more transparent and resistant to manipulation. Therefore, when it comes to transparency, decentralized ed-tech has the upper hand.
2. Engagement of Stakeholders
Increased local participation in decision-making often leads to the refinement of new ideas and better overall decisions. In educational settings, this can enhance relationships between parents and schools, as well as between students and teachers, ultimately improving learning outcomes. Decentralized education platforms, which often offer synchronous lectures, provide a more measurable way to gauge stakeholder participation.
Conversely, centralized ed-tech platforms often lack meaningful stakeholder engagement. While they may incorporate feedback at the course level, platform-wide changes are rare. In contrast, decentralized platforms like Metaschool actively note and implement user feedback across all aspects of the platform.
For instance, Metaschool operates an open-source GitHub repository where users can contribute suggestions or changes to courses and the overall platform experience. This collaborative approach is possible because no single entity controls the decision-making process, making stakeholder feedback crucial.
Therefore, when it comes to stakeholder engagement, decentralized ed-tech platforms have a clear advantage.
3. Complexity in User Experience
Ed-tech is a dynamic and intricate field that has evolved significantly over the years. The level of complexity can vary greatly depending on whether a platform is centralized or decentralized.
Centralized platforms often have complex user interfaces for several reasons. They collect extensive data through lengthy forms and primarily offer paid courses, requiring intricate financial aid forms for those who cannot afford them. Decentralized platforms like Metaschool, however, aim for a smoother user experience. For example, Metaschool only requires an email and a one-time password to access their free Web3 courses.
While decentralized platforms may evolve to become more complex as they grow, user experience remains a key factor in attracting and retaining users. Additional benefits like enhanced security and flexible curricula further position decentralized ed-tech platforms as leaders in educational innovation.
This blog concludes that decentralized ed-tech platforms offer a more consumer-centric approach compared to their centralized counterparts. This conclusion is based on an evaluation of three key parameters: transparency, stakeholder engagement, and complexity.
Each of these aspects was examined from the perspective of both centralized and decentralized ed-tech platforms.
Editor’s Note: This article is contributed by Sara Illahi. Sara Illahi Panhwer is an Associate Content Creator at Metaschool, a Singapore-based web ed-tech startup.”