Here is an interesting article from Mashable: In the Future, the Cost of Education will be Zero
In the article, the author Josh makes the following points:
- College is expensive and some people can’t really afford it.
- There is a growing trend in online universities. University of the People is one example.
- Other universities are putting a lot of their material online – example MIT’s OpenCourseWare project.
- There are a growing number of free textbooks available online. I would like to point to an example of a free physics textbook.
- Josh also points out that everyone should have a chance to go to college.
First, I completely agree with Josh’s last statement. Everyone should get a chance. The article mentions one way of this chance would be with free online community college courses. Seems interesting, but the devil is in the details. So, here are some points I would like to make:
- What is college all about? It is not about learning particular pieces of information or preparing for a particular job. Education is about becoming more human. It is about learning of the arts, the humanities and the sciences. It is a place where you can participate in different activities and learn to work with other people. It is more than the sum of its courses.
- Although online courses are better, I still think it is not equivalent (for most courses) to traditional education. I think a key component of a good course is the ability to interact with peers and your instructor. As an analogy, compare meeting someone face to face vs. talking on the telephone. Not the same, is it? I know this area is improving. There are many more technological tools available to increase the interactivity of a course. Someday, maybe this won’t even be a point.
- I was going to say something about how college is not job training, but I guess I already said that in the first point. I was also going to say that MIT’s opencourseware is cool, but not the same as a course. Again, I essentially already said this.
Let me just end by saying that I love my job. I know there are problems, especially in dealing with administration and stuff, but it is still a great job. I love facilitating learning, I love being in the academic environment. But, if one day the whole university system is completely changed, I have one thing to say:
I, for one, welcome our new free university system overlords.