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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

The Democratization of Learning via the Internet

Since its inception, the internet has been a place for sharing ideas. It’s also been a place for connecting people – regardless of location or demographics. But over the last decade, it’s become an even friendlier place for learning – both formally and informally.

When only a few people or sources control the learning for the greater population, society faces the danger of being manipulated, controlled, and influenced by the ideas that these educators purvey. When only a few people have the money, connections, and resources to invest in formal learning, a small group of elite individuals retains all of the power and leverage in society. For centuries this is how society has functioned, but the internet has changed the game.

In the evolution of learning, the internet represents a pivotal point in history. It allows for anyone, anywhere to collect ideas, amass knowledge, and participate in formal or informal learning that affords the opportunity to be educated on a variety of subjects that lay the foundation for long-term personal and professional development.

When people possess knowledge, they’re less likely to be manipulated. They’re also far more likely to innovate, launch businesses, create products, propose political progress, build connections and partnerships, build wealth, and enjoy emotional and intellectual freedom.

With the internet, all you need is an internet connection and a device to access the web. With these two things – and a healthy dose of patience and ambition –  you can quite literally learn anything. It’s not necessarily a shortcut – it still takes plenty of time and energy – but the opportunity exists. You don’t need certain privileges or lots of money to get started. Everything is there for the taking.

Anyone who has ever spent any time at all using the internet has, whether purposefully or unintentionally, used it as a resource for learning. Sometimes it’s as simple as running a quick Google search to find out what your health symptoms mean. Other times, it’s as comprehensive as signing up for an online degree program and attending hours of formal lectures over a period of months.

New methods are constantly arising,and unique mediums are always being developed, but here are a few of the best ways to learn via the internet:

Online Courses



It used to be that only select colleges and universities offered online courses; however, this area of education has shifted as well. In addition to accredited programs from renowned schools, there are also entire libraries of online courses from professionals in their respective fields.

CreativeLive is a great example of a platform that connects individuals with industry-leading experts in specialties like photo and video, art and design, and music and audio. If an individual wants to increase their knowledge in one of these areas, all they have to do is sign up, and they instantly become a student.

Message Boards



Message boards and online forums are incredibly rudimentary knowledge platforms, but also offer some of the greatest insights and access to learning on the entire internet. For those who’ve never used one of these resources, they’re simply web pages in which people can start “threads” or conversations. Other people – typically members of the website – can then respond with comments, exchange ideas, or ask questions.

The Terry Love forum is a good example of a message board that provides a lot of value to its users. The message board offers a place for users to seek professional advice on topics related to plumbing and remodeling DIY projects.

YouTube Videos



Video has always been an excellent platform for learning, but until YouTube there was never a comprehensive resource for organizing video in a manner that it could be searched and accessed by the general population. Today, with the power of the YouTube platform, anyone can publish and access video content. A lot of this video is pointless – and not everything can be trusted – but the opportunity exists for people who want to learn.

The HowStuffWorks channel on Youtube is just one example of a channel that people can use to become educated on a variety of topics – including everything from architecture and design to chemistry and physics. Other channels offer specific insights on niche topics. If there’s something you want to know, YouTube is the place to go.

There have and always will be ways to learn, but the internet has changed the game in the sense that it has democratized areas of education that were once reserved for just a select portion of the population. As the internet continues to evolve, it’ll be exciting to watch and study how learning continues to improve along with it. If the last quarter of a century tells us anything, we’re in store for some pretty exciting developments and opportunities.


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