Why Elon Musk’s ‘Starlink’ Will Transform Education (and what this means for YOU!)
Elon Musk’s Starlink project, in its essence, is about digital equity. Well, it’s about money, but we can put a pin in that for now and focus on the digital equity part!
SpaceX’s Starlink will provide the world with low-cost, high-performance internet around the world. And it’s not just about letting you scroll Instagram on a cheaper data plan… this project is going to change global politics and businesses.
The role of the internet in education
First of all, if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we should be prepared for a situation where we’ll have to work and study remotely. And with COVID’s new release of its fall collection (Omnicron), one can do nothing but adapt.
Now, this is easy in a country like, say, America. If you live in New York or Los Angeles, it’s unlikely that you had issues with your internet when logging on to study or get your work done. But the same is not the case in smaller towns and rural areas, where schools have struggled to make the transition.
Let’s take my country, for example. India.
You’d think moving online solved a host of problems for students (like terribly abusive teachers no longer getting to exert power), but it actually increased the digital divide for the under-privileged students. Education quickly became a privilege only the rich could afford, when in fact, education should be a right.
Some households lacked the devices, others had devices but couldn’t afford the increased data plans they had to take out to afford 5-hour long Zoom sessions. In some places, the connection won’t even allow you to make a phone call, let alone attend an online school. And patchy internet connections only make students lose interest in studying.
But what can one do? It’s unrealistic to expect parents living in slum areas to shell out the big bucks every single day to pay for high-speed internet, and this is a problem many around the world have faced during the pandemic.
In addition to that, the lack of tech literacy in most Asian and African rural areas has halted the adoption of electronic devices. Those who were afraid of tech or skeptical of it haven’t changed their minds, which impacted students who needed smartphones or laptops to attend their classes. The pandemic caused girls to drop out of school and start learning how to be good wives, and the boys dropped out to work as laborers.
Now, on the plus side, those who did have internet connectivity and the right devices were in favor of online classes. A study conducted in India by T. Muthuprasad from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi revealed that flexible schedules and convenience were ranked as the major benefits of online classes.
“Online education offers students the opportunity to study at their own pace and time of their convenience. Hence, flexibility and convenience are major drivers behind the demand for online education. More comfortable environment, enhancing the technical skills, more interaction and greater ability to concentrate and self-discipline and responsibility were ranked two, three, four and five respectively.”
Which means… there is an opportunity here.
Now to be fair, the study also cites data limits and data speeds as limitations of online classes, in addition to lack of device, technophobia, and self-discipline. But Starlink can solve 2 of these problems. No prizes for guessing which!
What is Digital Equity?
Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services. — digitalinclusion.org
Starlink is already up and running in some parts of the world (mainly Europe and America), with some schools in rural Texas already adopting the technology for their online classes.
Gregory Williams, president of Odessa College and a member of the ConnEctor Task Force, which brings together education and business leaders working to establish reliable internet service for the community, confirmed that the connectivity was encouraging more students in his community to keep studying and prepared them in their transition to higher-level education after highschool. The schools have even set up hotspots to help students and families connect to the internet.
YAY! So how can we use this?
By the time I publish this article, Musk would have deployed about 1800 of his satellites into the Earth’s orbit. Only 28,200 to go! By being close to the planet and networking together, Starlink’s satellites will carry large amounts of information quickly to any point on earth, even over oceans and hard-to-reach places where fiber optic cables can’t be laid down.
According to Elon Musk, the Starlink network could provide minor coverage after 400 satellites were deployed and moderate coverage at 800. With 1,800 circling our globe right now, the possibility for globalized internet access increases, and we are quickly headed towards a transformation in the makeup of our internet.
It only makes sense! As the internet gets better and faster and reaches more places, a massive influx of new users will flood the digital space, and we will see a wave of cultural changes to digital communities and the formation of new digital ecosystems.
Not to mention how access to the internet will provide new forms of prosperity to billions of people and disrupt the traditional power dynamics of the world! I’m talking small businesses, freelancers, and YES… educators!
Right now, a little under half of the population doesn’t get regular internet access. These tend to be people from low-income and non-English speaking regions of the world. Plus, the governments of many countries limit their residents’ access to the internet. Paranoid governments are increasingly blocking the flow of information in certain countries, and it’s a disturbing trend for such a liberating technology.
Despite this lack of access, there does exist an appetite for connectivity.
Now, as Starlink comes online and makes access possible for nearly 4 billion people, we can expect the makeup of the internet to change. That includes the language and cultural norms of digital communities. Not to mention more business opportunities! More individuals in these countries will have the opportunity to start businesses, and existing entrepreneurs and freelancers will now ask questions about services they can offer the new users.
And you know what they’re going to need once the internet becomes a norm and is required for any kind of success?
SAY IT WITH ME.
In low-access areas, there is a clear lack of an IT industry or IT skills. Where there is a lack of IT skills, there is a need for education. Not just for IT, of course, but also for tools and information required to start and run a small business, and much more.
As that happens, we can expect to see growth in easy-to-access e-learning platforms like Skillshare and Khan Academy. These platforms will be mobile-friendly and focus on core business skills like communication, marketing, product design, and more. There will even be opportunities to provide training in online security and privacy tools, proper online banking habits, avoiding scams, and the importance of strong passwords.
In addition to that, there is an opportunity to cater to the more artistically inclined. Art classes, writing classes, film theory courses, guitar lessons…
You say saturated, I say… “we don’t have enough!”
There is going to be a whole new world unlocked when the constellation is completed. Actually, it will happen well before the constellation is completed, as each new deployment brings one section of the earth closer and closer to the digital sphere.
Let’s not even talk about the opportunities for online courses in Metaverse! (We will. Just not right now).
What this means FOR YOU
Hello? Why are you not in my DMs right now asking me how to get started on making your course?
Whether it’s starting a digital store on Etsy, dropshipping, coding, writing, history, mythology… there will be a need for your expertise. We underestimate the love people have for learning; given the chance, they want to absorb everything this wonderful world has to offer, which means even if your biggest love is Marvel comics, trust me… people will want to hear you break down Iron Man’s complexities throughout the films and comics. Put it in a course about how to create well-rounded, fleshed-out characters and explore his relationships with other characters. Talk about why directors choose to change storylines from comics/books to movies and what value it adds to or removes from the character.
Possibilities are endless!
If you need more reasons, here are 5 Reasons You Should Make an Online Course.
Post it up, market it, and make yourself a passive income stream!
If you’re thinking of creating a course and need some guidance on structuring and scriptwriting, you can contact me through my website! I also offer additional services like branding, animation, voice-over, and promotional content creation.