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I actually see this as a good thing. The people who revolutionize education probably aren't going to be people from the old system. Because people from the old school tend to think of it as "using technology to emulate the current classroom experience"

The real innovators are going to be the people who come to the system from the outside and find a new way of teaching. And it will be much easier for those innovators to gain people's attention if the existing system isn't muddying the water with weak online offerings.

I don't think it's going to change that fast. While unemployment remains high, a degree from Khan academy (so to speak) is not likely to get anyone out of the resume pile and into a job. There's a shortage of STEM talent in the US so the tech world is a bit more open-minded about what constitutes a viable education, but in many fields you simply can't work without a qualification from an accredited institution.

Take law, for example. In CA, NY, and a few other states, would-be lawyers can study via apprenticeship, distance learning, or some combination of the two; although this can be a career handicap compared to attending a decent brick-and-mortar school, it doesn't impede one's ability to sit the bar exam and receive a law license. But in Texas (a large and growing legal market), it does - you can be admitted as an attorney to some other state bar and to federal bar, but if you got your law degree by correspondence then you won't be given a TX law license. Of course this won't last; eventually some attorney with a non-traditional legal education will win some landmark case in a federal appeals court, and barriers like this will be scrapped because nothing succeeds like success, and no state bar wants prevent a big client from hiring the star lawyer of the moment due to some ancient admittance rule. But right now there's much more supply than demand, so employers have little or no incentive to take a risk.

Of course, many jobs do not require same sort of rigorous standards that exist in the professions; you could make an economic argument that all credentialism is a kind of rent-seeking. But it's not going away until there's some alternative measure of skill that adequately predicts performance. Again, it's a bit easier in tech; you can sample the results of someone's work on their web page, and often it either works or it doesn't. It's less obvious how to do that in other fields.

While unemployment remains high, a degree from Khan academy (so to speak) is not likely to get anyone out of the resume pile and into a job.

Consider all of the people who go to community college and transfer in to the prestigious school for the last two years, and get the same degree. You don't need to get a degree from Khan academy, you just need to get the knowledge. Then you can transfer to a prestigious school and get the degree that gets your resume noticed.

That depends on the credit-granting policies of the institutions you attend and the field that you want to work in. I'm not saying it isn't possible, just that it is not as simple as people suggest. As long as there is an excess of supply in the labor market, hiring is going to favor the status quo.

Agree, lawyers protect them self not there clients with the credentialism. Its madness. Everybody can study up some basics and then really go into a field. It is rent-seeking.

A nice podcast on this: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2011/09/winston_on_lawy.htm...

I have extremely mixed feelings about it. I'm studying law and think there is a lot of merit on both sides of the argument. Before starting formal study, I did a lot of reading at a law library on a legal subfield of particular interest to me. After a year of reading, I could probably pass a certification exam on the rules in that area. On the other hand, now that I'm in law school (started last month), doing the basics on contract and criminal law are causing me to think very differently about the rules of that subfield, which are derived from or influenced by other rules of law.

And in turn, a lot of the first-year legal theory is only superficially about the rules, and more about exploring the many different modes of analysis that can be used to interpret those rules. A lawyer friend advised me 18 months ago that the rules are fairly easy, and that it's not unusual for a good paralegal or legal secretary to know the rules better than a lawyer does, but that the skill of an attorney is more about being able to explore the many possible interpretations from a given set of rules, whether to craft a persuasive argument in a dispute or to avert future disputes by anticipating where misunderstandings might arise and pre-empting them by clarifying ambiguities. So the more law I learn, the less I understand, if you see what I mean. At some point this trend will reverse itself...I hope :-)

So I can sort of understand the Texas approach here. Yes, it does involve a certain amount of nest-feathering by lawyers who wish to keep their services positioned at a high price point and use the ABA standards as an exclusionary filter. But on the other hand, you really don't want a lawyer whose only claim on a license is the ability to remember a large number of rules and apply them to straightforward cases, because that sort of lawyer will treat an unfamiliar problem like a legal dartboard and just try to hit as many rule issues as possible in the hope that one of them will score big. That sort of kitchen-sink strategy is good for intimidation or burying someone in paperwork, but it will fail badly against someone with a really strong analytical capability who will be able to weigh the significance of all the different rules in context and guide a court towards a wise decision rather one that is merely superficially correct. The lawyer with an excessively mechanistic, rules-based approach won't do a really good job for the client , and that undermines the standing of the whole profession. It's like the differences between first aid training, the greater skill of a paramedic or nurse, the deeper knowledge of a doctor, and the really expert knowledge of a surgeon or specialist researcher. All kinds of medical expertise have value in different contexts; you don't want to pay a brain surgeon to treat a minor cut, but nor you do want the camp counselor to operate on your subdural hematoma.

Fear of being deprecated! Imagine if APIs would act the same way.

Some of them do. c.f. PHP's mysql interface (as opposed to mysqli)

I honestly think the real innovators, Like the listed Stanford classes below, will come from the inside.

You can treat academia like any other industry and you need someone who knows the the system very well to innovate a better means. Plus, mass online education will still have to conform to some form of the highly bureaucratic standards that give real weight to the degree.

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