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Reducing the Cost of Higher Education

In a past post about a new educational model Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).  It seems that more and more well know universities are offering MOOCs.  Allowing anyone to have access to some of the best professors in their fields for free.

This movement has started to cause people to examine the question of what should the cost of higher education really be?  The question is being raised often enough that a post on the HBR blog has started to address it.

The biggest challenge is getting employers to understand the value of the MOOCs.  They still don’t know what to think about them.

According to a recent Financial Times article, many employers are unsure of what to make of MOOC education — unsurprising, since many new technologies and business models go through multiple evolutions. The good news, according to the article, is that 80% of respondents surveyed would accept MOOC-like education for their internal employee development. We can extrapolate from this survey that the employer demand for online education exists — and, moreover, that it is only a matter of time until universities and well-funded venture capitalists will respond to this white space in the market very soon.

Employers find it great for already hired and in the workforce people but what about using the system to get a college degree?  Would it be totally free?

Georgia Tech, in fact, has already responded; in January, it will begin offering a master’s degree in computer science, delivered through MOOCs, for $6,600. The courses that lead to the degree are available for free to anyone through Udacity, but students admitted to the degree program (and paying the fee) would receive extra services like tutoring and office hours, as well as proctored exams.

In the near future, higher education will cost nothing and will be available to anyone in the world. Degrees may not be free, but the cost of getting some core education will be. All a student needs is a computing device and internet access. Official credentialing from an on-ground university may cost more; in early 2012, MIT’s MOOC, MITx, started to offer online courses with credentials, for “a small fee” available for successful students — and we’re eager to see how Georgia Tech’s MOOC degree will transform the education model.

This seems reasonable to me.  You can take the courses for free, but to get the degree or access to office hours, tutoring and other services you pay a fee.

So now the student has the power to decide whether they pay for the learning or not.  The next step is to make a database that shows the student took the class and completed it.  Nothing more.  Then a person could list it on their resume and employers have a way to validate the person actually did it.  Maybe universities can change to have access to the database?

I find the MOOC system very intriguing.  As someone who has two elementary school aged kids, I am very interested in how the educational system will start to transform over the next decade and how employers will except the changes.

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MOOCs…A New Way to Educate?

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are a new type of college or secondary education that are starting to pop up across the U.S.  The Kansas City Star had a great article about MOOCs earlier in January.

What is a MOOC?

MOOCs — massive open online courses — have attracted millions of students from all over the globe to learn from top professors at elite universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Princeton and Harvard.The best part is that MOOCs are free. All you need is time, a computer and the Internet.

The courses are anywhere from 5 to 16 weeks long.  A person can take whatever classes they like and pertains to what they may need in their career.  Imagine…

A student could take one MOOC taught by an MIT professor, another taught by a professor at Harvard and yet another taught at Duke. In the end, the student could take a discipline-specific assessment, like a bar exam, to get something akin to a license to practice in their field.

We know that with a growing presence of education online the traditional brick-and-motor way of learning is going to have to adapt.  A college education won’t be the same in 10-15 years.  What if you could get your basic remedial class credits for free and have them transfer.  Well…

The Gates Foundation recently put up several hundred thousand dollars toward grants for nine universities to develop remedial MOOCs.

Like anything new, there are still a lot of challenges to work out before it becomes mainstream.

Fort Hays State and Johnson County Community College are among campuses piloting MOOC-like programs and looking for solutions to problems such as how to test, how to grade thousands of essays and exams, and how to prevent cheating.

And if you thought their wasn’t much interest in MOOCs, there is data to show otherwise.
MOOCs cemented their prominence in the higher education conversation when a 2011 class on artificial intelligence, taught by former Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun, attracted nearly 58,000 students from around the world, more than three times the size of Stanford’s entire student body. Even though fewer than half of them completed the course, it was clear the MOOC’s reach dwarfed anything possible in a classroom or lecture hall.
I can really seeing MOOCs leading to a great new way to gain a college or secondary education.  Here are my initial thoughts.  What if there was a company that compiled the MOOCs in one grand list?  The company could create a list of courses that need to be complete in order to receive a certain degree (i.e. For an accounting degree take Accounting 101 from Prof. A at Stanford and Accounting 201 from Prof B from University of Texas, etc…).  The program would be accredited and recognized as any other degree.  Maybe more professional tests are required in the future, like a bar examine.
I think it is important to still pay for the education but maybe it is $75 or $100 for a class.  This could really reduce the cost of a secondary/college education and prepare the individual just as much.
As for the cheating aspect.  Maybe there is a centralized database with a person’s information and a picture.  Then when it is test time, the test is taken with a webcam on to show you are the one taking the test.  May not be perfect but my first thoughts on it.
MOOCs provide an interesting alternative to learning.  How can it be leveraged to better educate and be more cost effective?  What are your thoughts?