The traditional education model has been outlined as the way one would think of school back in the 90s or early 2000s. A teacher sits in front of a class, lectures, gives homework, and then tests students of their knowledge retention. Higher educational institutions have been veering from this traditional structure by moving classes online and making the classroom more focused on problem solving than retention of facts.
Since the typical idea of college, i.e. think traditional four year universities, is becoming outrageously expensive and alternatives are arising, can it sustain itself? Time Magazine conducted a study to forecast the change coming to higher education institutions. The focus of this study was to hone in on the costs and benefits of sending children to an institution. Parents were asked for the main reason the want their kids to go to college. Their answers were centric to the idea of wanting them to have a foundation of knowledge to enter the job market in their field of study. The value added from attending an institution was to provide a gateway to a career.
What was not so important, however, was the cultural immersion, diversity and collaboration only attending a physical location can provide. Many academics view college as four years of collaborative learning with the smartest people in an area – a place to make friends, life partners, a professional network etc… Though the students may find this valuable, those paying the tuition find this as merely a fringe benefit.
This being the case, the argument can be made that physical, brick & mortar universities may be a dwindling phenomenon. After all, how can you justify paying upwards of $200,000 for a four year experience when ridiculously cheaper options present themselves.
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a game changer in the educational area. Khan Academy, Coursera, Lynda.com, and YouTube in general provide inexpensive, if not free, ways to become educated on just about anything you can think of. If a student can access the internet, they can attend top level college courses across the world and learn whatever they want.
Going back to the Time Magazine piece, it’s not the collegiate experience parents are worried about, it’s the preparedness for the workforce. As of now, it is not feasible to obtain a certain certification from a MOOC and have it compare to a degree from a university. In the future, this may not be the case. When parents feel comfortable with a MOOCs’ ability to educate their children sufficiently for industry, they may tighten their purse strings and buy their kid a nice computer.