Will universities disappear?Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 by Roberto Saracco
The European Commission has released a study produced by several expert in the education field containing six future scenario for education. Fully private, partly private and partly public, fully public and so on. The sixth scenario is the most striking one: it foresees the disappearance of the educational system, replaced by services available on the Internet.
Now, a similar scenario has started to appear in the United States. Tuition in the USA is very expensive, several thousands dollars a year for college and university. Now, with on line courses a student can embark in a self tuition process for as little as 99$ a month. StraighterLine, http://www.straighterline.com/about/ , is a company offering for a flat rate of 99$ a month as many course as you feel like to take. Several people, who lost their jobs because of the crises, have taken this offer and most discovered that they worked very well. Through Internet one can access course materials, read text, watch video, listen to podcast, work on exercises and take exams. More than that, one could really learn.
It is also possible to become part of a group of similar students, collaborate in the group through instant messages and bulletin boards. There is the possibility to get help from on line tutors via email and if you can’t help and need a human voice there is also one on one support via Skype.
The nice thing about on line courses like those offered by StraighterLine is that you can move at your pace, as well as saving a lot of money. A four course package may be taken in two months (at a cost of 200$); an equivalent one taken from a University may cost anywhere in between 3,000 and 6,000 dollars and would take two three times more to complete.
It is just starting and so far is not creating problem at colleges and universities since the people who are turning to on line education offered by companies like StraighterLine are the one that need to update their education having lost a job or looking for more promising opportunities.
However, it is not difficult to predict that colleges and universities will start to feel the heat as more offering will be available, and industry will start to make no difference between education gained in a college or on line. The curse of free information is going to hit also the education sector.
Devices like eReader and a new way of producing information to provide self assessment will change the horizon; my bet is before the end of the next decade.
Take a look at this article presenting some real cases of people using on line courses and tell me if you also believe that we are on the brink of a new way of learning.