"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Future of Education

I've lamented publicly on this blog about the anachronistic structure of college education, in which young people are forced to spend extortionate sums in tuition to get a college degree when the knowledge they are supposedly there to learn is available for free online.  

I've also lamented privately about the fact that the Regular Son leaves for college in a little over three years, and the revolution (inevitable... that which can't continue, won't) in college education won't have happened yet.

Well, maybe.   Here's an article from NRO that dissects the economic fallacies driving college tuition increases.   At the end they note these promising developments:

There have been a number of promising recent developments in higher education. The most impressive may be the rise of Western Governors University, a highly innovative institution built around entirely online delivery and a competency-based degree — i.e., WGU grants credits based on test performance, and does not require class attendance. A WGU student who is already very knowledgeable about software programming, having worked as a coder before starting work on her degree, might secure a credit in computer science by passing a final exam without actually taking a course. In essence, WGU offers the equivalent of a CPA exam for every subject.

Moreover, WGU charges its students based not on the number of credits they complete, but rather on an “all you can eat” basis over two semesters: If you can demonstrate competency in seven or eight semesters’ worth of credits in only two semesters, you pay the price for two. The beauty of the WGU model is that it allows students to seek instruction anywhere they can find it — they can read independently, study with a tutor, enroll in some other school, etc. — while turning to WGU to certify that they’ve mastered the relevant material.

In a somewhat similar vein, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has sponsored MITx, a program through which students who take free online courses offered by MIT can, for a modest fee, secure an MITx credential by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the material.

There is nothing magical about greenswards on college quads.   There are public parks where you can get your natural beauty for free.   There is nothing magical about spending four years on a college campus.   Most people can learn whatever they need from college in two years or less.   You can already "test out" of college courses by taking AP classes in high school.   Why couldn't you just "test out" of college altogether?  

And there is nothing magical anymore about college libraries.   It used to be that you went to a university because that's where the books were.   You had to go there to get access to knowledge, and they could charge a premium because there were "barriers to entry" as the economists would say.   Now access to knowledge involves precious little in terms of transaction costs -- it's a frictionless click of a mouse away.  

No comments:

Post a Comment