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The End of the University as We Know it

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by ChiliPepper, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. Hey guys,

    there's an interesting article about the future of higher education in the current issue of the American Interest.

    "In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students."

    "We are all aware that the IT revolution is having an impact on education, but we tend to appreciate the changes in isolation, and at the margins. Very few have been able to exercise their imaginations to the point that they can perceive the systemic and structural changes ahead, and what they portend for the business models and social scripts that sustain the status quo. That is partly because the changes are threatening to many vested interests, but also partly because the human mind resists surrender to upheaval and the anxiety that tends to go with it. But resist or not, major change is coming. The live lecture will be replaced by streaming video. The administration of exams and exchange of coursework over the internet will become the norm. The push and pull of academic exchange will take place mainly in interactive online spaces, occupied by a new generation of tablet-toting, hyper-connected youth who already spend much of their lives online. Universities will extend their reach to students around the world, unbounded by geography or even by time zones. All of this will be on offer, too, at a fraction of the cost of a traditional college education."

    "The higher-ed business is in for a lot of pain as a new era of creative destruction produces a merciless shakeout of those institutions that adapt and prosper from those that stall and die. Meanwhile, students themselves are in for a golden age, characterized by near-universal access to the highest quality teaching and scholarship at a minimal cost. The changes ahead will ultimately bring about the most beneficial, most efficient and most equitable access to education that the world has ever seen. There is much to be gained. We may lose the gothic arches, the bespectacled lecturers, dusty books lining the walls of labyrinthine libraries—wonderful images from higher education’s past. But nostalgia won’t stop the unsentimental beast of progress from wreaking havoc on old ways of doing things. If a faster, cheaper way of sharing information emerges, history shows us that it will quickly supplant what came before. People will not continue to pay tens of thousands of dollars for what technology allows them to get for free."

    full article:




  2. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Yes, and we'll all be driving flying cars, too. And everybody will be listening to electronic music exclusively.

    There's no doubt that online education is here to stay and is going to play a larger role in the overall scene of higher education. But these apocalyptic scenarios that say that it will mean the death of traditional campus education actually are exactly like the scenarios that used to say in the future there will be no more classical or jazz or blues music because everyone will be listening to these amazing new synthesizer thingies.

    What will actually happen in higher education will be a lot like what's happened in music. Classical music, that used to be the whole story, has become one genre among many with a relatively modest, but high-status, following. Synth-driven pop music rakes in big bucks among the masses. But even the creators of pop music realize that sometimes, in order to refresh their creativity, they need to drink from the well of the sources of the musical tradition, and once in a while a movement will break through that revitalizes popular interest in older musical styles (Harry Connick Jr and big-band swing, the Black Keys and Chicago blues, etc.).

    In the future, there will be a lot more people aiming to get credits cheaper or for free online. It will never be as free as all that; advertising, at least, will be needed to bring in revenue. Right now MOOCs are an exciting experiment for Harvard professors to offer; ten years from now, when they're all over the place, the experimental excitement will have died and they'll be passed off onto underpaid grad students to run. The glamor of "taking a Harvard course for free online" will fade as people realize that they're not really getting the Harvard experience and your lecture podcast keeps getting interrupted by pop-up ads for cheese doodles.

    Meanwhile, traditional campus education will deliver something that no online course can; socialization in a high-level intellectual community. The whole thing that makes Yale YALE is that you are in dorms and discussion groups with people who are selected to be there for their achievements and potential. You aren't stuck in a chatroom with every Tom Dick and Harry who happen to have signed up for the free course and are now pooling their collective ignorance. You may do the readings, take the tests, and get the credits, but you aren't emerging as an educated person the way that people with the campus experience do.

    Employers will notice the difference. When students go out into the job market, employers will look at who got their degree from home for free and who invested four years and thousands of dollars in educating themselves, and now have letters of recommendation from eminent professors who know them personally and mentored them. And guess which will get the preference in hiring?
  3. giacomini


    Dec 14, 2008
    Florianopolis - Brazil
    Endorsing: Copetti Guitars
    I just had my commencement ceremony online, half an hour ago.

    This is my first college degree and it was done 90% online, just had to go up to the university once a month to take tests.

    Worked out for me, I tried regular university 4 times before that and finished none.

    I'm happy with it and I'm already enrolled for graduated studies starting next month.
  4. The vast majority of 'learning' at the college level after freshman year has to do with, IMO and IME, interacting with peers/students, and the interaction in a classroom setting. Once in graduate school, I would say that personal interaction, office time with peers, teaching in labs, and even socializing with professors, is about 90% of what you get for your tuition.

    I'll never forget interviewing a person who had an MA in applied statistics from 'The University of Phoenix' about 10 years ago (before I was aware of these on-line diploma mills). She knew NOTHING... literally nothing, even though her record showed the 'right classes' and high grades.

    Unfortunately, I think people are being sold snake-oil, paying a lot of money for very little return with these on-line type institutions.
  5. Jonyak


    Oct 2, 2007
    Ottawa, Ont
    Which ever one he can pay less.

    Care to guess which one that will be?
  6. Factor88


    Jun 21, 2011
    Just want to agree wholeheartedly with hrobert696 and kjung. There's a place for online learning and even degree earning, but to think it will "kill" trad universities in our lifetime is a bit over the top.

    I got my AA, BS, and MS all the traditional route. My MS was from a relatively unknown shcool. I have an employee who just got an MS degree completely online from a much better school. In reviewing his work, it is shocking to me how poor his technical writing skills are, how badly his presentations are organized, and how lacking he is in subject matter knowledge, for a person with a graduate degree.
  7. Factor88


    Jun 21, 2011
    Point understood, but for many entry-level, right-out-of-college white collar jobs, pay is going to be at some minimum anyway. That being said, NOW care to guess which one is getting the job?
  8. Ziltoid

    Ziltoid I don't play bass SUSPENDED

    Apr 10, 2009
    That's my take on it. I'm also an advocate for doing your undergrad in a small university, the more proximity with teachers and others, the better.
  9. Jonyak


    Oct 2, 2007
    Ottawa, Ont
    Probably still the guy with the "lesser" education, as he will be less likely to have as many opportunities, and will probably stay longer in the job.
  10. It's all well and good to say that about subjects which are entirely book taught.

    But that wouldn't work in the sciences, where you need lab time. You need to do hands on work to appreciate the information in the books.

    It's not going to work all that well for Medicine, Nursing, Engineering etc etc
  11. giacomini


    Dec 14, 2008
    Florianopolis - Brazil
    Endorsing: Copetti Guitars
    Just to be on the clear side, I finished and graduated online from a respected university down here, paid and took all the tests. BUT I don't think that online education will kill universities.

    While in regular college I enjoyed and learned a lot from faculty interaction. When I started college back when I was 16 I could stand peers/students but some facts in my life made me choose another path and I gave up college before I graduated. Years later I tried to go back to classrooms, but I just couldn't stand the crazy kids no more, they're still so much into high school that classes in freshman year aren't very productive...
  12. Yup.
  13. Let a veteran financial aid officer jump in:

    Online education is a wonderful modality, for those who are qualified. The problem is that it has been innovated by for-profit companies, and the business model needs bodies.

    As a result of this basic fact, we have people enrolling in higher education programs who would otherwise be under-qualified, or unqualified. We also have them being given the ability to move forward, in their academic track, for business reasons, when the sensible academic argument for such progress is completely absent. I have dealt with doctoral students who write like they could not pass 8th grade. Even our friend in Florianopolis is an unwitting example, in this very thread ("graduated studies" -really? It's "graduate studies, but I will also give a free pass, in that English may not be a primary language for him, and it is only a minor faux pas, compared to what I have dealt with, professionally).

    I once had a student with a pair of F grades, six D grades, and 9 credit hours completed satisfactorily. He had taken out $30K in student loans, and the rule is that one can borrow a maximum of $57.5K before a bachelor's degree must be completed (that's 120 credit hours, folks). Naturally, this kid borrowed the max, and took the excess funds as cash, and was eagerly awaiting his next disbursement. I did not want to let him continue, but, "the needs of the business" came first. I ask any sane reader to consider these facts, and tell me that online education will be a game-changer for the better.

    Until the for-profit sector of the industry is tightly reined in; until academic progress is given greater significance, until financial aid practices are more tightly controlled, the potential for abuse remains high, and the loser is the student who lacks the qualifications, but is being sold a dream, and goes into catastrophic personal debt, to try to achieve that dream. Student loans are exempt from discharge via bankruptcy; one is stuck with a high debt load, and if they do not finish the degree, and get a good job, that debt load is crippling to their prospects, and stays with them for decades. It is enough to create a new demographic of second-class citizens.

    It still boils down to personal accountability, and making the most of one's education, starting in middle school. Sadly, our culture makes it to easy to fail our young people, with distractions, and easy material, so that, even some who truly apply themselves, and have "the right stuff" are ill-prepared for the challenges of college.

    Online education won't kill universities, but I would not recommend it as an exclusive pathway to higher education. I took TV courses (pre-internet era), where I had to physically appear for mid-terms and finals, along with weekend classes, and ordinary semester classes, on campus, to finish my degree. Mixed modalities have the advantages of interaction and convenience, and internet technology will enhance that. Online education CAN work, but it has to be structured more along the lines of what TV ads like to show us (the "virtual classroom"), as opposed to independent study.

  14. giacomini


    Dec 14, 2008
    Florianopolis - Brazil
    Endorsing: Copetti Guitars
    Guilty as charged. At least it wasn't "Squire"... :bag:
  15. It's all in how it is addressed. I remain an unrepentant grammar nazi, for the right reasons.
  16. This is a subject near & dear to my heart. I am currently working on a Master's Degree in Education Technology and I consult on these very issues.

    I agree with some of everything that's been said here but I think the level of disruption will far exceed anything we expect.

    Here is a video to check out. I didn't create this but it's worth checking out. While some of this is very far-fetched, a great deal of it has already happened (everything up until mid-2012). More importantly, even the far-fetched stuff is a real eye opener.

  17. So are you insinuating that brick and mortar universities are truly *not* for profit??? Higher education is big business, and they make a FORTUNE!
  18. BioDriver

    BioDriver A Cinderella story

    Aug 29, 2008
    Any respectable brick and mortar university will kick you out if you don't perform well academically, unlike online universities.

    I can see them putting a dent in community college enrollment but most 4 year universities won't be going anywhere.
  19. There are some brick & mortar institutions that sully the reputation, but they are the johnny-come-latelys, for the most part. There is higher overhead involved, but also the intangibles that have already been addressed, in this thread. Most brick & mortar institutions still provide the perception of greater value. The abuse is in the federal financial aid sector. I can foresee a day where many of those with high debt loads may be offered some relief, via military service, or working in public service projects on weekends. We are creating a problem that will need even more creativity in solving it.
  20. Job growth is not keeping up with population growth as it is. More people with more education just means more educated unemployed people.

    Fifty years from now, it's going to be all about who you know, not what you know, if you want a decent career with a decent salary.