Free: The Future of a Radical Tuition

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Some new interesting nuggets from the online learning revolution: Bill Bennett’s feature of Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun notes that when you rank the 20,000 + graduates of Thrun’s massive online open graduate seminar on artificial intelligence that the first in-person Stanford student ranked 411th. In addition, Thrun notes that he has 20 companies lined up to hire Udacity certificate holders.

Today comes word the UC Berkley will be joining forces with Harvard and MIT in the EdX project, and that:

Though it won’t offer college credits, the edX website is expected to give certificates to people who complete courses and to charge for some of those certificates in the future. Birgeneau said that some California community colleges later may use UC Berkeley’s edX courses as part of their regular campus classes that would earn students credits to transfer to a UC.

Higher education inches ever closer to disruption. Institutions must sort through security and other issues, but institutions will have to grant credit for high quality courses that address them. If they don’t, then the monopoly on credentialing people currently held by universities may crumble faster.  The media is likely to focus on the chaos of it, but let’s not take our eyes off the ball: free university training holds the potential to provide opportunities for advancement for billions of people.

It’s difficult to wrap your head around the implications of all of this for higher education and, for that matter, K-12. My feeling is similar to that expressed after second 53 in this clip:

2 Responses to Free: The Future of a Radical Tuition

  1. allen says:

    Yeah, it is difficult to wrap your head around the implications.

    Typically, a drop in cost of production and increase in supply leads to a drop in price so one possible outcome is a collapse in the wages that highly-educated people can earn since there’ll be a tsnunami of them rolling out of the free, on-line universities.

    On the other hand, these are people capable of performing tasks of significant worth. In a sense, each graduate enriches society by the increase in value of the tasks they’re capable of performing.

    So, which wins out? Do wages drop in response to the increase in supply or do wages hold steady/go up due to the intrinsic worth of the tasks these graduates are capable of performing?

  2. matthewladner says:

    Increasing the productivity of higher education will be a large net positive for society, but with considerable disruption for incumbent providers.

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