theodp writes During February, Bill Gates is playing Perry White at The Verge, expounding on the big bets the Gates Foundation is making to improve the world over the next 15 years. One of those bets is that online classrooms can help the world catch up. Gates’ vision of universal online education extends to those who struggle with basic literacy and currently lack online access, far beyond the reach of MOOCs like Coursera, EdX, and Udacity, which have enjoyed their greatest success with higher-level courses aimed at the middle class. “Gates’ vision — a wave of smartphones that can act as ubiquitous, cheap computers — is central to solving this problem,” explains The Verge’s Adi Robertson. “And unfortunately, we’re not there yet.” But eventually, Gates is betting that a world-class education will only be a few taps away for anyone in the world. And that’s when things get really interesting. “Before a child even starts primary school,” Bill and Melinda Gates wrote in their Foundation’s 2015 letter, “she will be able to use her mom’s smartphone to learn her numbers and letters, giving her a big head start. Software will be able to see when she’s having trouble with the material and adjust for her pace. She will collaborate with teachers and other students in a much richer way. If she is learning a language, she’ll be able to speak out loud and the software will give her feedback on her pronunciation.”
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