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The Internet Education

Bringing Convenience and Open Source Methods To Higher Education 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-have-a-mcdegree-and-a-diet-coke dept.
Business Week has a piece discussing the effects internet-based technology and open sharing are having on the standards of higher education. The author says every product's success or failure depends on its fidelity — the overall quality of experience — and convenience. Since the internet has made the sharing of even expert-level knowledge convenient, he wonders how long it will be until some school or company raises the fidelity enough to have their degrees accepted alongside those of professional-grade colleges. Quoting: "Once in a while, a market gets completely out of balance. Forces conspire to prevent either a high-fidelity or high-convenience player from emerging. All the offerings crowd around one end or the other. Eventually, someone nails a disruptive approach. Customers and competitors rush in and the marketplace wonders why that great idea didn't come sooner. The higher education market is a lot like that. For centuries the university model dominated because nothing else worked. No technology existed that might deliver an interactive, engaging educational experience without gathering students and teachers in the same physical space. ... These days broadband Internet, video games, social networks, and other developments could combine to create an online, inexpensive, super-convenient model for higher education. You wouldn't get the sights and sounds of a campus, personal contact with professors, or beer-soaked frat parties, but you'd end up with the knowledge you need and the degree to prove it."
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Bringing Convenience and Open Source Methods To Higher Education

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  • Erm.... Labs? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kombipom (1274672) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @09:25AM (#29482453) Journal

    Small problem with that idea in the physical sciences, a simulated lab isn't much use for hands on experience.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by i.r.id10t (595143)

      Several of hte instructors at the community college I worked at developed kitchen labs, all safe, but demonstrative. There's even a company out there (forget the name at the moment) that has a chem lab pre-created, and they even will accept liability for all experiments therein. Granted, no cesium in a fish tank, but still educational.

    • by nbauman (624611)

      Small problem with that idea in the physical sciences, a simulated lab isn't much use for hands on experience.

      Sometimes the physics lab doesn't work the way it says in the book.

      The simulation always works the way it says in the book.

      • by sorak (246725)

        Small problem with that idea in the physical sciences, a simulated lab isn't much use for hands on experience.

        Sometimes the physics lab doesn't work the way it says in the book.

        The simulation always works the way it says in the book.

        And having someone who you can ask questions to, when something doesn't work the way it should (when you are first learning), is more valuable than an experiment that works exactly right, every time.

      • The simulation always works the way it says in the book.

        Exactly: supposing the physics in the book happens to be wrong? How are you ever going to discover anything new without doing real experiments? Simulations are a useful educational tool but learning how to do real experiments is essential. If we relied on simulations we would never have discovered relativity or quantum mechanics because every simulation would have been made to agree with Newtonian mechanics.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Sometimes the physics lab doesn't work the way it says in the book.

        Good point, we run the risk of raising a generation of scientists whom will not have the experience of "massaging the data" until it matches the predetermined answer... Obviously unacceptable...

    • by gtall (79522)

      That's not the only small problem. One should distinguish among 'data', 'information', and 'knowledge'. Data is raw stuff (text, graphs, etc.). Information is relative to the individual, i.e., you must know the language in which the text is written to unlock the content, you must understand the axes, etc. to unlock the content of a graph. Knowledge is information in the context of a structure allowing one to predict or extract information from other information. The boundaries are also a bit fuzzy. (There a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Narpak (961733)

      Small problem with that idea in the physical sciences, a simulated lab isn't much use for hands on experience.

      Of course any degree that requires instruction with access to various facilities; labs, operating rooms, a kitchen, or others; will, probably, always need the students to attend a physical location (though I reckon at some point there will be certain things that can be done through VR).

      However any study that is entirely academic, say certain fields of math, computer science, social studies, arts, or any field that only requires basic equipment that is available for a reasonable price at a local store of

    • by Dravik (699631)
      I have yet to have a lab that wasn't a waste of time at the undergrad level. I'm almost an electrical engineer, so I will admit it is possible that the 3-400 level chemistry and physical sciences labs may be useful.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      For stuff like that, some online universities rent out a lab somewhere and have students come in I believe.

  • tests? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    One potential problem:

    How does the school prove the person who took whatever tests over the internet is the person they were said to be?

    Another thing brick and mortar schools do is allow for some extremely basic filtering of students...students must be able to attend a classroom with other people, work collectively in some cases, and have some basic competition in general, without being too disruptive.

    Otherwise, it's a no-brainer. Many brick and mortar schools now have some online component.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      The instructors I work with ask the same thing, but don't even flinch when I ask when the last time they checked a students ID in their physical class.

      Only exceptions I've heard about have been the police academy courses (for background check, etc) and health related classes (nursing, nuke med, etc).

    • Re:tests? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by IANAAC (692242) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:09AM (#29482635)

      How does the school prove the person who took whatever tests over the internet is the person they were said to be?

      I completed a degree program online. Took me three years to do it. The way they (sort of) got around this was to have actual sittings for exams in various places throughout the country for each semester. These exams covered bits from the entire previous semester and would be difficult to just waltz in and take without actually doing the coursework.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BryanL (93656)

        Exactly, most reputable on-line schools have you take tests at a third party location.

        I am currently taking classes on-line for my masters degree though Western Governor's University. I take the course exams at the same place I took my exams for my bachelors degree, at the Brigham Young University testing center. There isn't too much different. I keep in contact with my professors by e-mail. I have a syllabus and course material. I read the text books. I have an on-line community of people (students and tea

    • For the one online class I took, I had to have a proctor.

    • Funny you should ask about cheating. A recent study suggests that students on campus cheat more often than their online counterparts. I blogged about it here [elearners.com].

    • by vlm (69642)

      Another thing brick and mortar schools do is allow for some extremely basic filtering of students...students must be able to attend a classroom with other people, work collectively in some cases, and have some basic competition in general, without being too disruptive.

      Judging by some "educated" folks I've worked with in the past, this filtering must be "extremely basic" indeed. So minimal as to reach the "why bother" stage.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @09:34AM (#29482487) Homepage Journal
    The University of Phoenix which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, is partway there, though it's a hybrid of online and campus learning.

    Um, "partway there"? If someone came to me with a University of Phoenix degree, I would reply, "Well, that DOES prove you like to pay a lot of money for toilet paper."

    The University Of Phoenix education is a complete and utter joke. What they teach is worthless and best and counterproductive at worst(and yes, I have seen some of the content of their masters programs, assignments that include algebra I was doing in 7th grade and homework questions like, "What is a MAN?")

    These articles don't want to point out the fact that entrepreneurs have already tried, and failed pretty miserably, at taking on the higher education market before, and other than using the internet, I don't see much difference between what was tried then and what this guy is proposing.
    • by SoVeryTired (967875) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @09:51AM (#29482551)


      These articles don't want to point out the fact that entrepreneurs have already tried, and failed pretty miserably, at taking on the higher education market before, and other than using the internet, I don't see much difference between what was tried then and what this guy is proposing.

      The Open University in the UK did just that, and they did it really successfully.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by EdZ (755139)
        And, until a few years ago, it was almost open source too. OU programs used to air in the early mornings on TV for students to record (and thus for anyone else to watch too).
        • Their content may be (or have been) open access, but, as far as software goes, they require you to use Windows.

          • The OU actively develops Moodle [moodle.org], particularly the quiz module. This works on all machines since it is a web application. You can also get several of their courses via iTunesU which is hardly Windows-based!
      • by udippel (562132)

        The Open University in the UK did just that, and they did it really successfully.

        and you happened to be affiliated with this place, are you?
        Once I read they 'convert publications into a PhD' I was thinking to pay another place to 'convert life experience into a PhD'. Because that latter was much cheaper.

        • by dkf (304284)

          Once I read they 'convert publications into a PhD' I was thinking to pay another place to 'convert life experience into a PhD'.

          A number of universities do that, and quite legitimately. It's much easier to spend a few years doing research and then write a thesis though; the "convert publications to PhD" route is for people who are effectively operating already well beyond the doctoral level and just haven't got the piece of paper yet.

        • I don't know about the original poster but I am not affiliated with the OU nor have I taken any of their courses but I would reiterate the point that they are successful and fulfil a very useful educational niche. I would certainly not rank their degrees as being as good as an established UK university but I would take them as at least equivalent to a degree from the polytechnic-Universities. They have some very clever solutions to the distance problem and actively develop Open Source software - particularl
    • by Andrew Cady (115471) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:02AM (#29482597)

      The University Of Phoenix education is a complete and utter joke. What they teach is worthless and best and counterproductive at worst(and yes, I have seen some of the content of their masters programs, assignments that include algebra I was doing in 7th grade and homework questions like, "What is a MAN?")

      That doesn't matter, because what universities sell is not education but credentials.

      After all, the internet as a whole provides a much richer educational environment than any university possibly could, "internet university" or not. (Indeed, classes in ordinary universities are also a joke, if you're accustomed to learning things without being forced.)

      But just learning things won't help you get you a job. I have heard perfectly competent hackers talk about going back to get another degree (in computer science) even though they know they wouldn't learn anything there, because it would help them get higher-paying jobs.

      So yeah, there's a market for credentials, and the less time you have to waste pretending to be learning what in fact you already know, the better.

      • I'm going to agree and disagree. I did my BSc for the credentials, I'm doing my MSc for the education. While I could cover a large part of the curriculum via self learning, having the structure, feedback and the ability to learn outside the "self-taught vacuum" I consider to be very valuable products which I can only get in a bricks-and-mortar institution.

        But yes, my end goal is to improve my job prospects since I'm heading into my 40s and given the common attitude to older people working at the code-face,

      • It's not just knowledge, it's filtering. Everything for an undergraduate course is available online, or in books, but the university tells you which subset of everything is worth knowing to be considered educated in a subject. How closely this subset matches other people's opinions affects the university's reputation.
    • by d3ac0n (715594) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:16AM (#29482667)

      Actuall, UofP is VERY good for certain types of degrees. Computer Science being one of them. While I don't have a degree from UofP, I have worked with IT people who do, and they were smart, motivated, well educated people.

      Let's face it, you DO NOT need to physically be in a classroom to learn computer science. Hell, most old line universities are so far behind the IT curve that it's become a bit of a joke in the IT field.

      Yes, there are some courses where you really do still need a physical location. Most of the physical sciences and medicine fall into that category. But for most other courses, there are no "labs" to go to. Why not virtualize them? Assuming it is done well (and like physical schools, there would be good and bad ones) there isn't any good reason why we shouldn't be able to it.

      Unless of course you are a stodgy, dusty, moldy old Prof who can't change his or her ways and just want to rail against market forces performing the creative destruction they always do. In that case, all I can say is that it sucks to be you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by antifoidulus (807088)
        Um, hate to break it to you but the University of Phoenix doesn't even OFFER a real computer science degree [phoenix.edu], they offer a lot of bullshit "IT" degrees, meaning they don't teach any of the real fundamentals(and no math beyond middle school algebra) behind how computers work, how to evaluage algorithms etc. They do offer some classes handholding you on technology that will probably be obsolete in a few years, if that's useful.

        I guess I'm just an elitist, but I found that people who never studied any real c
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        Let's face it, you DO NOT need to physically be in a classroom to learn computer science. Hell, most old line universities are so far behind the IT curve that it's become a bit of a joke in the IT field.

        The fact that you seem to believe that computer science is more than tangentially related to the IT field leads me to doubt your views have merit in this subject. Or do you also judge astronomy degrees by the glasswork skills of the graduates?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oldhack (1037484)

        "Let's face it, you DO NOT need to physically be in a classroom to learn computer science. Hell, most old line universities are so far behind the IT curve that it's become a bit of a joke in the IT field."

        Computer science is not IT.

        Cookie-cutter lower-level math and science courses (excluding labs) seem well suited for online learning, I agree.

        • by dkf (304284)

          Computer science is not IT.

          While that's true, it doesn't change the fact that remote learning of CS is entirely practical. All the labs you'll ever need can be done on your own laptop or remotely using ssh. Commercial collaboration tools are certainly good enough to support remote tutorials and lectures, access to the library isn't very valuable in undergraduate CS, and remote exam taking is possible (though they're also infrequent enough that requiring people to come in for that is reasonable).

          The only part that would be hard is if

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      You are absolutely wrong. Many online schools are very successful. I have an Associate, Bachelors, and Masters degree from online, regionally accredited schools (accredited by the same organizations that accredit UCLA, Stanford, and Harvard) and have been promoted ahead of my peers and been very successful. I have also attended on-campus classes and I have learned more, become more disciplined, and benefited more from my online experiences. Also, many entrepreneurs have succeeded HUGELY in the higher educa
    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>The University Of Phoenix education is a complete and utter joke.

      The majority of teachers in California have credentials from the University of Phoenix.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147)

    Canada has at least two fully accredited distance learning universities and a bunch of the regular ones offer distance learning courses. Athabasca [athabascau.ca] was founded sometime in the 70s or early 80s, I think, as an initiative by the provincial government to better provide education to remote areas. They used to use the mail extensively but switched to the Internet in the late 90s. The article seems to think this is somehow a new and revolutionary idea.

    Correspondence is okay for part of an undergrad degree, and

  • As others have pointed out, this capability has already been embraced by higher education for certain coursework and certain students. It works well for professional certification activities, for instance, where mature students are pursuing specific aims. I took a graduate engineering course with full time students in the classroom and Raytheon engineers connecting via video from their own campus. Tests were remote, but lab exercises required they travel to the campus.

    I have been responsible for remote o

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zolltron (863074)

      \

      Conferences are another similar situation. I've attended and been involved in organizing numerous conferences. The one next month is 14 timezones away. Hundreds of people will still make the trip because of the value of talking to people face-to-face, and especially the value of talking to many people simultaneously face-to-face. Video links are also terrible at providing lucky chances for unplanned conversations. I can't count the number of productive partnerships that have germinated over a stale lunch and a cold beer in between sessions.

      It's precisely this fact that makes me discourage students from online distance education whenever possible. Both in undergrad and grad school, I learned way more from random discussions, be they with other students or professors, than I ever did during the official class time. So much of an education is had by being around others who are also interested in the same things and eager to talk about it.

      • Both in undergrad and grad school, I learned way more from random discussions, be they with other students or professors, than I ever did during the official class time. So much of an education is had by being around others who are also interested in the same things and eager to talk about it.

        Because it's so hard to find people to talk to on the internet??

        • It's hard to find as great a concentration of intelligent people with an interest in a certain specialisation on the Internet as at a university. It's even harder to find a place with a high concentration of intelligent people with an interest in a certain specialisation and a lot of intelligent people working in a completely different field on the Internet.
          • It's hard to find as great a concentration of intelligent people with an interest in a certain specialisation on the Internet as at a university. It's even harder to find a place with a high concentration of intelligent people with an interest in a certain specialisation and a lot of intelligent people working in a completely different field on the Internet.

            I really don't think this is the case. Especially if you include "intelligent." For example, try to find a localized group that can compete with Undernet's #math for opportunities to talk about advanced math. I doubt one exists in the world; I certainly wouldn't expect to find one at arbitrary university. Certainly, if I had a math question, it would make more sense to go there than to a university. Especially at 3am.

            There's a reason why so many math majors & grad students spend so much time on IR

            • try to find a localized group that can compete with Undernet's #math for opportunities to talk about advanced math. I doubt one exists in the world; I certainly wouldn't expect to find one at arbitrary university.

              The internet is at every university already. Campus denizens are overrepresented in many/most/all online forums. It isn't a question of one or the other, but rather of maximizing the benefit from both styles of communication.

              Regarding further examples of subjects difficult to convey over the in

              • The internet is at every university already. Campus denizens are overrepresented in many/most/all online forums. It isn't a question of one or the other, but rather of maximizing the benefit from both styles of communication.

                OK, but I'm not talking about "styles of communication," I'm talking about the communicating communities themselves. Are the best communities the product of local universities or the global village? It is going to depend on specifics, but usually the local community -- no matter what sort -- is not going to be able to compete.

                It's just so much easier to form connections at light-speed than whatever the average speed of a human body is.

                • by rlseaman (1420667)

                  I've replied to this thread a few too many times already. I guess I'm taking umbrage at Scott McNealy attempting to undermine the universities - already under severe attack from the lunatic fringe.

                  Are the best communities the product of local universities or the global village?

                  How does one discern the goodness of a community? Obviously most here (excluding trolls) value online communities for a range of purposes and filling various niches. The universities have been engaged with network issues since lo

                  • Most of your response does not address my original posts at all. I'll address the one point that does.

                    Are the best communities the product of local universities or the global village?

                    How does one discern the goodness of a community?

                    Arbitrarily. Here's one metric: where can I go to get a physics question answered? Who will answer my physics question fastest and in most detail? I don't think I will find the fastest answer at a university [online or not].

                    But by all means blog about it after class.

                    That's some smug attitude you got there, but here on slashdot, we write programs after class...

                    Although I have to say, there's a lot more value in any blog that people actually read

                    • by rlseaman (1420667)

                      Most of your response does not address my original posts at all.

                      A rather limited point of view to assign "original" thoughts to one's own post, and to rate everybody else's as derivative.

                      Me: How does one discern the goodness of a community?

                      Arbitrarily. Here's one metric: where can I go to get a physics question answered? Who will answer my physics question fastest and in most detail? I don't think I will find the fastest answer at a university [online or not].

                      No, you'll simply learn how to answer the q

    • Starfleet Academy is just the US Naval Academy, adapted for space. Hogwart's is an idealized version of a British school for upper-class pinheads. I don't know how you draw a connection between these and real life. Neither spacemen nor sorcerers need pay for airline tickets or pay rent in those neighborhoods near the university.
      • by rlseaman (1420667)

        Starfleet Academy is just the US Naval Academy, adapted for space. Hogwart's is an idealized version of a British school for upper-class pinheads. I don't know how you draw a connection between these and real life.

        The authors of such books and the directors of such movies are neither spacemen nor sorcerers. It is an explicit decision to model such dramatic schools against familiar analogues. Each of these fictional universes demonstrates vast imaginative variances from reality in other regards. It is p

    • Consider the Star Fleet Academy (or Hogwarts or the Isle of Roke). If ever there was a situation ripe for distance learning, that is it - and yet through several movies and TV series, book after book, the academy is depicted as a physical location shared by students from diverse planets

      Hogwarts is a secure site for training kids with wild talents.

      It is common ground.

      It lies at the core of the secret society which is Rowling's magical world. In that sense, Hogwarts serves the same purpose as a cathedral, a

  • The Open University (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chelmet (1273754)
    You can take The Open University in britain as an example of why I don't believe this is ever going to work. "The Open University is the distance learning university founded and funded by the UK Government." So, you would imagine a degree from here carries at least some weight in academics and business, but unfortunately that's not the case. Perhaps not so bad as the example of University of Phoenix above, as some professional bodies do accept their legitimacy, it is a sad fact that OU degrees are sneered
    • ...it is a sad fact that OU degrees are sneered upon in britain today. This is likely due to the high percentage of students who sit courses "for personal interest"...

      Did you not take any courses for "personal interest" when you were in college? Here in the US, they're called "electives".

      But we're talking about degrees, aren't we? If you're going for a full degree online, most likely you're in it for more than personal interest. However, I know nothing of the quality of OU courses.

      • Did you not take any courses for "personal interest" when you were in college? Here in the US, they're called "electives".

        In the UK, these are (usually) not part of your degree. Your degree is in one subject (or sometimes two). There is an implicit assumption that you will acquire a general education on your own while you are at university. I attended lectures on propaganda taught by the politics department for personal interest while I was doing a computer science BSc, for example, but this didn't count toward my degree.

      • I am in it for both personal and professional reasons. I left school in 1982. I have no tertiary education at all (barring 3 months of A levels). And yet I have travelled the world, learned computing - both hardware and software, met thousands of interesting people, and had a pretty fulfilling social life. And I have earned a living while doing those things. Now I am bored, and frustrated by the lack of challenges I have signed up for a BSc (Hons) Degree in Computing and Systems Practice. I want to learn as
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      So, you would imagine a degree from here carries at least some weight in academics and business, but unfortunately that's not the case

      No, it has a higher weight than a degree from any of the former polytechnics (at least, with all of the employers I've spoken to - I don't have a degree from either, so I can't comment first-hand).

      it is a sad fact that OU degrees are sneered upon in britain today.

      Are they? 'OU degrees' covers a broad spectrum. OU degrees in academic subjects tend to be respected; they indicate that the person is sufficiently motivated to learn on their own time, and that they have been assessed as actually having done so. OU degrees in fluffy subjects are subject to the same derision as

  • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:42AM (#29482763) Homepage Journal

    "You wouldn't get the sights and sounds of a campus, personal contact with professors, or beer-soaked frat parties, but you'd end up with the knowledge you need and the degree to prove it."

    Personal contact with professors. Don't need that. I realize this is supposed to be provocative and snarky but --

    He's suggesting a two-class society, in which some of us will be alphas and go on to first-class colleges, while the rest of us will be betas and memorize pages from the Internet.

    When you go to college, you're in an educational environment 24/7, getting exposed to more ideas and experiences than most people get otherwise in a lifetime.

    Can you imagine spending all your waking hours for 4 years on the Internet hooked up to the University of Phoenix?

    To me, the classic moment of college was standing up in a classroom having to defend a position that people disagree with. And then arguing about it later in the cafeteria or dorm. If you've never spent all night arguing over the existence of God, then you never had an education.

    Most of the important things I learned at college -- computers, biology, art, music, new sexual positions, fixing cars -- I learned bullshitting with my friends over at my house, or over somebody's dining room table, or just hanging out. And yes we did have a few drinks or a joint. And yes it's nice to have some girls join you in your intellectual explorations. It was also nice to have a library where books were arranged according to the LC call number so whatever you were interested in, you could find a whole shelf on the subject, and read whatever you wanted (even if it was under copyright). And it was nice to go over to the computer lab or physics lab and try to crash the system. And it was nice to run into my professor in the supermarket.

    This model of an education is like a factory worker punching in a time clock and sitting on an assembly line for 8 hours. Talk about obsolete models.

    • by Mprx (82435)

      When you go to college, you're in an educational environment 24/7, getting exposed to more ideas and experiences than most people get otherwise in a lifetime.

      In my experience, the Internet provides a much better educational environment. Formal higher education has its own very limited set of ideas and experiences. With very few exceptions (eg. study of chemistry) it can only compete against the Internet because of artificial monopolies.

    • To me, the classic moment of college was standing up in a classroom having to defend a position that people disagree with. And then arguing about it later in the cafeteria or dorm. If you've never spent all night arguing over the existence of God, then you never had an education.

      I was doing this sort of thing when I was fifteen -- on the internet, with adults [including, by happenstance, a math professor]. There are entire internet forums devoted to arguing about god. Really, are you thinking about what you're saying? Do you realize where you are? If you want all-night arguments, the internet is going to beat any university...

      And yes we did have a few drinks or a joint. And yes it's nice to have some girls join you in your intellectual explorations.

      The only reason I ever went to university was to meet girls.

      • by nbauman (624611)

        I just remembered that I actually taught an online journalism course. I recommended a couple of textbooks, gave them assignments which we critiqued, linked to examples of good and bad news stories on the Internet, and gave them a running account of a story that I was working on and explained how I did it. I also invited a couple of students in my region to some journalist's events.

        I think I did a pretty good job. It was a lot more interactive than reading a textbook and handing in exercises that only a teac

  • The Library (Score:4, Insightful)

    by florescent_beige (608235) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:44AM (#29482773) Journal

    University is more than a bunch of classes and tests. It's a life experience including: moving away from home and living on your own for the first time, meeting and getting along with people who are more talented than you (a shock if you aren't used to it), establishing friendships and the beginnings of a life-long network, finding out where professors come from, buying some Staedler instruments and spending hours admiring them (partly because you can't afford to do anything else after you paid for them with that month's food money), and discovering the university library.

    I can't be the only one who's outlook on life was modified by spending time in a library like the Robarts. There's an atmosphere of concentrated truth in a place like that you just don't find anywhere else. First, you find out that the world is full of people who know a whole lot. Second, you learn that people have spent a lot of time writing down what they know. And the scale of what I'm talking about only really becomes clear when you stand in a library stack with books stretching off forever and ever, each one some person's passionate little gem.

    To me, higher learning is about more than just getting some facts straight so you can get a job.

    But having said all that, it will be true that other models of learning will bring education to people who otherwise wouldn't get it, and who can argue with that?

  • At one time I thought I'd leave my academic job and actually gather people to do this as a startup, but I'm too risk-averse. Still, the idea is sound and I hope someone steals it.

    The idea is this: Release high-quality digital teaching modules under an open license, and pay for top talent to have them made. This teaching software would include video lectures integrated with an interactive "textbook" which is more than a simple reading. The textbook would include manipulable simulation applets to illustrate

    • by khayman80 (824400)
      +10 Insightful. I'm planning something like this myself, using open source textbooks [lightandmatter.com], problem sets [sloan-c.org], and lectures freely available on Youtube. Or perhaps someone can suggest a better video website for long (~50 minute) lectures with high resolution for the equations recorded from an overhead projector- my tool of choice in the classroom. Any other suggestions for a free online physics course? (I can be contacted using the email address on the "about" page accessible from my homepage.)
  • Have a gander at The Kahn Academy [kahnacademy.org]. Free, expansive and excellent learning materials focused primarily on math and science (the areas America need most help in). Sal Kahn has a youtube channel set up here [youtube.com], with topics ranging from how to multiply to quantum physics. Each explained clearly and concisely (and obviously, broken into 10 minute lessons).
  • Since the internet has made the sharing of even expert-level knowledge convenient...

    People in college today are paying roughly the same per semester in state school that I was paying to go to a private college a couple decades ago. And, just like the health insurance industry, the costs are rising much faster than the rate of inflation would justify.

    Before long, he claimed, the whole bloated, expensive, lecture-based higher education system will face the first challenge to its very existence: open-so

    • If you take away tenure you had better be prepared to start offering much higher salaries for professors, because at their current salaries tenure provides the only real incentive to go through the grueling work of undergrad research, grad school, post-doc research/teaching positions, associate/assistant professorial positions, and finally the review process. Remember the daunting levels of competition in academia, the lack of public respect, and the way that pay doesn't go high enough to raise a family at

  • That would be a sad change... I don't think I want to have missed the student life.
  • Submitter has it backwards - You'd end up with the degree you want, without the knowledge to prove it. Why do you think University of Phoenix is so popular?

  • University education has already been made significantly cheaper! The universities are doing it themselves by hiring "adjunct" faculty.

    You paid about $5k tuition for each of your freshman semesters, taking calculous, chemistry, english, and history. You had "instructors" for each classes, not professors. Each instructor was paid about $6k for the whole class. TAs are maybe paid slightly more. So the university need only 7 students for each course, the rest is profit.

    You can get the same courses for far

  • This rather tepid article is likely not worth much attention, but it's good for some Sunday morning philosophizing. The premise is that 1) access to content is either high fidelity or high convenience, and that 2) there is an unfilled niche at the high convenience end of the spectrum. This is coming from a purveyor of high cost "enabling" technology.

    The first point is rather blatantly obvious. The second appears to be out of touch with current trends. There already are multiple channels to access higher

    • by Dravik (699631)
      I wouldn't care about the degree(I love MITs online stuff) if the HR department didn't care about the degree. For most people; any accredited degree( no matter the quality) will vastly improve their life. I currently have a friend who spent nine months unemployed. To get a job he had to move to no-where Arizona. Can't sell his house so his wife lives two days drive from him and he lives with roommates in a crappy apartment. Two months after he got laid off he found a job that he was perfect for him. G
  • I so much want this to happen. I left college in 1981 in my sophomore year to work in the field I love, software engineering. I have done many projects that would be worth a PhD if done in the academic context. Much of my career I have worked with PhD credentialed peers. Yet I have no such paper. Beyond the paper, there are things particularly in the more theoretical and research areas that I would like to know much more of. Many of these I do explore with online resources and in books. However I ge

  • I recently read an article which compared the lifetime earnings of someone who earns an average amount with a high school degree versus someone who earns an average amount with a Bachelors degree. The conclusion was that when one factors in lost earnings and student loans, the person who got a job right out of high school will do better on average than someone who gets a Bachelors degree.
    • by dargaud (518470)

      I recently read an article which compared the lifetime earnings of someone who earns an average amount with a high school degree versus someone who earns an average amount with a Bachelors degree.

      Yeah, I was really disgusted recently when I saw that working with (good) electricians and plumbers who were younger than me (in their early 30s) and already had two paid houses and worked only 6 months a year while I lived in a crummy rental appt with yeast on the walls and an unstable job in research.

No hardware designer should be allowed to produce any piece of hardware until three software guys have signed off for it. -- Andy Tanenbaum

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