Equalizing Education

Salleha fell in love with the non-profit sector during college when she worked in a village hospital in Ghana. So [she says with a big smile], she destroyed her parents’ hopes and dreams and turned down her place at med school.
She now leads Education Modernization at Facebook/Meta, and she’s determined to bring equal opportunities to everyone, everywhere, by “transcending the future of education.”

The computer age came and went. And now we’re moving towards the Metaverse, as we’ve coined it. But for the students who still don’t have access to wifi, who still don’t have access to laptops, the gap is becoming larger and larger­­—and they’re going to get left behind. In the United States too, that’s happening. And so, for us, it’s about how do we bridge the gap and ensure we reach and inspire students from all backgrounds?

Many tech companies made billions in profits over the pandemic while the communities that need it the most have lost money and gone further into poverty. Tech companies have a responsibility to ensure that they’re leveraging their resources and their talent to better our society. And Meta has a huge responsibility as we have access to billions of users across the world.

Internally at Meta we’re always asking: what can we uniquely do for our communities? Do we have talent? Do we have funding? Do we have partnerships that could enable them to be more successful?

“Tech companies have a responsibility to ensure they’re leveraging their resources and talent to better our society.”

My team co-creates products and programs supporting kindergarten through 12th grade, in communities that are facing layers of inequity. We want those students to know that they have the ability, and the potential, to choose whatever they want to do.

The pandemic pushed education in a way nothing else could have done. It really forced education to relearn teaching, and it forced communities to see the importance of access to education. It also gave us the ability to reimagine what schools could look like, which I think is really exciting.

The pandemic showed unmistakably that students actually still learn best in person. That there are many individuals who can’t be virtual, because they don’t have access to wifi or stable internet, or even laptops. And it showed us the importance of the three-dimensional world.

So, how do we make it possible? And how closely can we mimic it using virtual reality?

“The pandemic forced education to relearn teaching, and forced communities to see the importance of access to education.”

Having a teacher in front of you and students around you, that engagement is so important for both your mental health and for your academic development. At Meta, we talk about the importance of AI or augmented reality. But I will always be a huge proponent of in-person education.

I know that Hult has been a huge advocate of democratizing business education and inviting more individuals into that space. That’s how we’re looking at virtual reality. We know that if it’s successful in the Metaverse, it will tear down those walls of the museum, and of the schools, and allow people to invite each other to learn when they want and when they can.

Expand Your Horizons

Like Salleha, many Hult alumni are at the cutting edge of their industries—we can learn so much from each other. Join us online for an alumni event, from panel discussions and webinars to chapter presentations and informal hangouts.

Meta Immersive Learning I see VR as something that can transcend time and space. It shouldn’t matter where you’re born—everyone should have the same access to education and the same economic opportunity. We know that there’s a long way to go before everyone has access to virtual reality. But over time—similar to the laptop, similar to the phone—it will become cheaper and cheaper and become more and more accessible. So how do we use it to reach more communities?

Using the Metaverse as an example—it allows you to create, explore, and connect with people in places that you aren’t in the same physical space as. In the next 10 to 20 years, students could be in Zambia, for example, and learn from teachers and other students in a digital space that they may never have had the ability to learn from otherwise. That just tears down the walls and limitations that many of us had. It also creates empathy and understanding when it comes to the cultural diversity of the world, which is what’s really exciting.

“In ten years, my hope is that choosing a college will be a question of “Where do I go and how do I get there?” and not “How do I pay for it?”

Because the pandemic accelerated the global shift to online learning, we know there’s going to be a universal hybrid approach. Hybrid includes both in-person and online, but it also shifts the access of knowledge from a traditional one-way delivery from teacher to student to more of a learner-centric model. So learners are able to choose what they want to learn, when they want to learn it, without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars doing it.

“Hult has been a huge proponent of democratizing business education and inviting more individuals into that space. That’s how we’re looking at virtual reality.”

I see the future of education as an ecosystem not limited to geographical location, so a student anywhere in the world can have equal access to educational resources that enable economic opportunity. We’re already tearing down the barriers of cost through different funding models, like Coursera and other online modules. My hope is that in ten years, higher education is not a prohibition of cost, but more a question of “Where do I go and how do I get there?” and not “How do I pay for it?”