Incline Village, NV…The technological wave that changed forever the publishing world is now starting to roll through our institutions of higher learning. How would you like to attend classes for FREE at the University of Pennsylvania, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Toronto, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, California Institute of Technology, University of Edinburgh, University of California, San Francisco, University of Virginia, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Washington, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Paris Tech, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tufts University and many more with more schools adding online coursework all the time….
Just a few of the providers in addition to the Schools themselves..Coursera, OpenCourseWare, Education-Portal, Khan Academy and on and on. How would you also like to attend these classes for FREE!! OpenCourseWare alone has 2,100 different courses available. Many of the Universities are Opening up their courses even though they are uncertain on how to monetize them. Including some you can get college credit for are being subsidized by companies in various industries.
Khan Academy is an interesting example where their catalog of 3,200 coursework videos have been watched a staggering 170,451,955 as of the writing of this article. Many times students can get better instruction from one of the videos on a course covered than in the classroom. In some instances they are becoming the classroom for the growing numbers of home schooled students. Khan is targeting and is the leader in providing online video lectures for the k-12 segment. Who will fill this niche for the college and university level? Time will tell and it will probably develop where there are a few superstars for each subject matter. The future will even allow for natural selection of college lectures based on their efficiency in delivering a specific subject matter.
Another unintended consequence of online classes is that sometimes thousands of students will virtually attend a single lecture. There have been a few instances of amazing exchanges where a subject matter is literally pushed forward through the shear force for thousands of collected brains focused on a topic. This has in some cases turned the notion of optimum class size on it’s ear. What if instead of competing against just a few brains in a classroom a student was working for class supremacy in thoughts and ideas against thousands in real time? That future in some cases is already here.
We hear everyday the horror stories of our recent graduates and others that have enormous college debts upon graduation and even if they don’t finish that follow them for years after completion. In many instances if you want the education but don’t need the degree it is out there and available already. If you need the degree your options are less but increasing all the time for a lower cost, but high quality education. Until recently there seemed to be a gentleman’s agreement amongst the schools of not allowing a price war to break out for online education. Now with much of the knowledge and even the courses available for free the cost of higher education from even some of the most prestigious institutions may start dropping dramatically.
Many factors are driving this. Just like the early days of the Dot Com era where Linux and Open Source software and inexpensive servers opened up the possibility for companies like Google to be built Open Source education systems like Moodle that are free and already have all of the modules and tools for a robust online learning environment including, video, quizzes, testing modules, grading and more already built in and for free. All a system like Moodle needs is the right content. Imagine in a few years if courses could be open and publicly vetted much the way Wikipedia has become the world’s dictionary by default.
Many believe that it is now only a matter of time before Technological Determinism will drive the costs out of education the same way it did with publishing, music, electronics, and more. The pervasive Moore’s law that has held constant for decades in predicting increasing computing power for less and less cost is now starting to see the equivalent in education and other knowledge sectors of our economy. What if a Wikipedia like process were applied to textbooks? The result would be ever increasing quality and volume of subjects for virtually zero cost. It’s coming, the question is not if but when.
All of the information is already out there it just needs to be organized and made publicly available in structured formats. The next technological revolution has begun with education directly in the crosshairs. We live in an amazing age where virtually all of the knowledge in any field is available at our fingertips. All that is needed for an incredible future for many of our next generations of kids is desire to learn and the discipline to do so.