Here's an interesting article & discussion of online vs. campus education that Professor Norvig posted on January 24th.

From Google+

Peter Norvig - Jan 24, 2012 - Public

Matt Welsh on "Making Universities Obsolete." I'd settle for "better" and "more accessible," not "obsolete."

Volatile and Decentralized: Making universities obsolete
http://matt-welsh.blogspot.com/2012/01/making-universities-obsolete.html

Matt Welsh works at Google; he used to be a professor of Computer Science at Harvard University.

I want to ponder the failings of the conventional higher education model for a minute and see where this leads us, and consider whether something like Udacity is really the solution.

...
Failure #1: Exclusivity.

Failure #2: Grades.

Failure #3: Lectures.

Implications
I'm not sure whether Udacity and Khan Academy and iTunes University are really the solution to these problems. Clearly they are not a replacement for the conventional university experience....

But I think there are two important things that online universities bring to the table: (1) Broadening access to higher education, and (2) Leveraging technology to explore new approaches to learning.

The real question is whether broadening access ends up reinforcing the educational caste system: if you're not smart or rich enough to go to a "real university," you become one of those poor, second-class students with a certificate Online U.

asked 02 Feb '12, 05:08

EllenL's gravatar image

EllenL
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edited 02 Feb '12, 05:34


To reemphasize, I think Peter Norvig's point is the best one in the whole post/link: 'I'd settle for "better" and "more accessible," not "obsolete."'

This is a really interesting observation: 'The real question is whether broadening access ends up reinforcing the educational caste system: if you're not smart or rich enough to go to a "real university," you become one of those poor, second-class students with a certificate Online U.'

I wonder if it will work that way. Does anyone here know enough history to comment on how universities were viewed at their inception compared to private tutors?

I think people underestimate the importance of feedback loops in the process of change. If online courses attract good students who later demonstrate improved performance I think they will eventually achieve a corresponding reputation. A challenge is meeting the twin goals of accessibility and high standards (with respect to both presentation and grading).

link

answered 02 Feb '12, 11:33

rseiter's gravatar image

rseiter ♦
6.6k526

edited 02 Feb '12, 14:48

My understanding is that the lecture hall system evolved from the particulars and resource constraints of teaching anatomy/surgery. An army of tutors may have spread latin, but it didn't work for surgery. I would find it odd if anyone really argues against the effectiveness of online upper education without first stripping "XX101" lecture hall classes of accreditation. Is it the number 2 pencil that bestows knowledge? I think this line of argument just stems from pro-online people constructing straw men. There are always a lot of social biasis. But one way or another the market erodes them.
(02 Feb '12, 12:49) lossleader lossleader's gravatar image
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