Friday, May 18, 2012

Impending Mountain of Debt - Post Secondary Education

* Disclaimer: My son is just finishing his junior year in high school.

 I was just reading Thomas Friedman’s column titled, Come the Revolution . He writes about how professor Andrew Ng, who normally teaches to about 400 students during a semester, last  semester taught 100,000 students. The article is mainly focusing on the successful introduction of the project. Coursera is an online learning management system that started with 40 courses taught by professors from Standford, Princeton, Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.

Upon reflecting on the article, a part of me keeps asking the question, “And why doesn’t Andrew Ng work for himself, become self employed? At 100,000 students a semester, even if he charged $1, that’s not bad income for a semester of work. Then again, maybe this level of professor make much more than $100,000 a semester?  

I do realize the value of of a big name university behind a professor. But in a day where the information about those select professors, their blogs, research projects, commercial endeavors, successes and failures, etc.  is available at your fingertips, does “storing” all those professors and titles under a ivy school university label bring them any more value in today’s world? I also realize the value of an institution to combine resources ($$$) in a way that an individual can not. However, part of me believes this is still a valid argument in certain situations.

It seems to me that it would be very easy to organize a collection of professionals, from all over the world, with established credentials based on the artifacts of their digital lives, into a DIY post secondary education. Individual learners could select their program and professor based on their interests and the strength of the professors credentials, and not on the restrictions of an overarching institution and the programs available only within them. Professors would win if students enrolled in decent quantities and students would win by lowering the costs for post secondary education.

This idea needs a global standardization for evaluating the credentials of a professor/expert, and process for evaluating the components that would make up a useful student program, sort of an agreed upon outline of the essential skills needed within a specific program. Those essential skills could be vetted in a “Wikipedia” like environment, with additions, subtractions, and corrections contributed by the specific program’s community.

Taken one step further, or earlier, I should say. I could see how similar system could possibly help students at earlier levels of their formal education. It would help them not so much by creating an online school for them to attend, but giving them the ability to create their own school!

I should also note, that what I’m describing is already, to a degree, being done by the people who are reading this post. However, it is done in an informal manner without established expectations. As the impending mountain of debt approaches with my son graduating next year and deciding on where to attend college, I can’t but help but entertain the idea of economically sound post secondary education.

1 comment:

Laura Wharff said...

I think this idea has merit; but as an individual who more or less "spans" two generations, I believe a brick and mortar university has some merit as well. You cannot put a price tag on the value of face to face discourse which a classic (in the good sense of that word)liberal arts environment can provide. But I don't think it needs to be a four year experience, in fact, I would challenge the notion of 4 years of post high school education altogether. I think it's longer.....