There are a handful of big (sometimes existential!) problems lurking on the horizon which absolutely rely on academia because incremental progress isn't amenable to monetization. I'm most worried about the drug industry. It's imploding (google "inverse moore's law"), leaving the basic science required to get over the slump in the hands of academics, and I don't want to wait 50 years for high-efficiency gene therapy (or let China grab the market) just because the research is tied to an outdated educational system. I know there's very little anyone can do about it, but I need to know the extent to which college tuition subsidizes said research before I can form a solid opinion on disruption.
EDIT: Got off my ass and googled it. The NSF estimated in 1994 that 9.5% of research funding comes from tuition . I would like to formally submit one internet-vote in favor of disruption, along with one internet vote to increase research funding to compensate :)
Even if online class doesn't make professors extinct, I think it will certainly make physical class time a thing of the past.
I'd argue that's the result of poor communication, not any deficiency in human speech generally. Granted, it's very very hard to construct something with the right level of addressable information at every moment. But when it's done right it is glorious. I think one of the things people implicitly recognize in good communicators (not necessarily good orators, but good communicators) is their ability to tailor what they're saying in this way.
Other times, it's great to play it at 1.5x, or even skip sections entirely. E.g. if I'm comfortable with the topic / environment, I don't want to sit through 20 minutes of setting an IDE up, or a walkthrough of "hello world". I wonder if it would be possible to deviate from the strict linear progression of lectures, and allow the learner to choose. The difficulties in prerequisite knowledge might outweigh the benefits, but it might be an interesting idea. More of a library of closely related lectures and information, rather than a single course.
People pay for the time and effort of professors who are very knowledgeable and have extraordinary teaching ability.
I also think MOOCs have great potential, not because college education is bad, but because MOOCs allow the best educators to reach even more people. I don't expect the top-end of education to change much, but I hope that MOOCs can raise the overall quality of education.
This is a known flaw of free markets that we usually write off as a cost of doing business. If you present the invisible hand with a prisoner's dilemma, it falls for it every goddamn time. The 'bloat' is then the difference between the cooperative solution and the nash equilibrium. In this case, the cost is egregious enough (it is very high and it is imposed upon a very vulnerable population) that we might want to pay attention. I doubt we will, leaving disruption as the only hope for the education market.
Students take to it pretty well when video lectures are available (my experience is that book only reverse classrooms don't work as well). It also generally leads to better retention, since more time is spent on hands-on experience.
Instructors also take it pretty well. Using an existing set of lecture materials reduces the preparation workload, especially in the first year teaching a course.
SJSU's 'disastrous' experience with 'regular' students may indicate that most students need the discipline/peer presence of a physical college:
Katy Jordan did a study of MOOCs recently , and it was found that the completion rates are in fact quite abysmal. I suspect that the reason for this is because there isn't much incentive to continue studying.
So this is very much in line with the guy saying at the end of the article: Here's a library, now go get knowledge.
Learning, IMO doesn't happen like this. MOOCs will just perform the functions of a library, albeit far more efficiently. The function of a classroom (not necessarily a professor) is still quite necessary for structured learning. And of course, with a classroom comes TAs and professors... which makes the answer to the question, No
No, it's because there is no burden to sign up, nor disincentive to dropping out. Thus, you get lots of people who sign up for them just to watch a few videos or to see what the course is all about, but they have no real buy-in.
According to a talk I saw by Andrew Ng, 43% of people who submit the first homework on Coursera go on to finish the course. That's actually a remarkably high completion rate IMO given the scale of the classrooms.
My own criticism of MOOCs is that they're not ideal for any subject with physical skills. I was a class tutor in the late 90s doing biology and electrical engineering classes. At this time the 'can learn everything from a computer!' crowd was getting really underway, and I remember wondering 'how is a computer going to teach you how tight to tie a liguture?'. Similarly, my favourite lecturer mentioned that for a lot of skills, a technical college is better. At university we might be expected to solder together a circuit, but zero time was spent teaching this skill. At a tech college, they do physical skills, starting with things like "here's a bunch of nails in a block of wood, solder wires across their heads" - exercises solely for honing physical skills.
And if you are having trouble doing a physical skill, having an expert pair of eyes see what you're doing is a hundred times better than trying to post it on a forum. For example, I'm an indifferent guitar player and have skimmed forums here and there for years, asking questions about this or that... but it was during my first lesson with a professional guitar teacher that I had considerable issues cleaned up with my technique.
MOOCs are a great tool to have in the arsenal, but they're not a replacement technology.
Characterizing the completion rate as 'absymal' suggests that the number is intrinsically significant which really isn't the case outside of a traditional school– where the enrollment pool is already carefully filtered and there is external pressure to keep rates at some arbitrary level.
Edit: Forgot to refresh before submitting my reply so this is repeating some things which have already been said.
Online makes that easier (you don't have to leave the house, or type up papers and mail them in) but fundamentally, online education still requires a lot of self-discipline.
If most people were really good at self-study, we wouldn't have ever built up institutions of education. The real problem with undergraduate university environments right now is that the perceived value has fallen dramatically as tuition rates have skyrocketed. The universities and providers of easy financial aid are to blame for that.
MOOCs differ from just reading a book on important aspects:
1. You have a teacher break down the content for you
2. You have graded assignments, which helps giving confidence you're absorbing the content
3. Interactive media (video, software) can be a more effective media to explain certain concepts
4. You have interaction with other students learning the same subject
> If most people were really good at self-study, we wouldn't have ever built up institutions of education.
Back in the day, your only chance of having access to knowledge was at institutions, so I'm afraid this is more of a tradition than anything else. Remember that the church was once the source of knowledge too. Nowadays though, people aren't going to college for knowledge as much as for filling a pre-requisite to enter the job market.
I have always been someone who prefers self directed learning to the classroom (this coming from someone who spent 7 years in college / grad school), I think MOOCs are great and I get as much out of them as I did many college classes. I found the freedom to study any topic whenever I wanted to very liberating; I ended up studying more. Some MOOCs are certainly better than others, but you could say the same of regular classes.
There is definitely no replacement for office hours with professors, but facebook groups, community TAs, and Skype actually close the gap more than you'd think.
Generally speaking, for any system, reducing the cost of failure will make the failure rate go up.
Similarly from a systems perspective, my OS class was the hardest C.S. class that I took. There was very little that I remember from the lectures but the most I took away was during designing shit and getting stuck and then going back and talking to the professor and brainstorming. This is stuff that inherently doesn't scale well to millions of people.
Of course it is better to have a real person, but not everyone has that luxury, or their real professors are no good.
Also, I did some schooling in the third world and I am never going to come out and say that someone putting material for a course online is a bad thing. I am just annoyed by this idea that a bunch of online videos is a superior or equally effective replacement to an education at MIT or Stanford.
A good chunk of people will require social, interactive, and hands-on learning led by people to whom they can listen and converse. Until that experience is sufficiently reproduced online (and surely even after that), "professors" will not be out of a job.
Also the title is hyperbole.
I teach online and hybrid (part face to face, part online) courses. My students tell me they actively choose one or the other format. Some students cannot learn online and appreciate the ability to interact. I try to use the class time we have effectively, to demonstrate, to coach, to give feedback on their work. I save the "lectures" for their own time.
I've taken online courses from some pretty bright people and never felt that they were a good fit because they were simply lectures. I don't learn by lecture. I learn by doing and getting feedback. I do horribly in "traditional" instructor-focused courses, AKA "lecture/test" courses. I do very well in courses where I can apply things.
One thing I think is great about online education is the ability to reach a lot of people. But one thing that's terrible about it, in my humble opinion, is that it's harder to connect with students. My online classes have a cap of 27 students. I can manage a couple of courses like that. But in order to manage courses of 200-2000 people, I just would be putting up content and videos, and I'm sorry, but that's not teaching. That's nothing different than screencasts or books. If I get assessed, I want detailed feedback. I want to ask questions.
And if those questions are being answered by a support staff, then there goes the argument of "learning from the best and brightest" that MOOCs advocate.
I love teaching students hundreds or thousands of miles away. I don't think my role is going away any time soon, simply because I've evolved how I teach. The ones who should be worried are the ones who teach from the textbook and spend 64 hours per course lecturing from the front of the room.
[edit to clarify reply]
This quote is part a defense of the humanities and liberal arts as essential for presenting ideas of who, what, and why we are.
Schumacher makes a strong distinction between education and training and I lean towards categorizing MOOCs as the latter. While they may achieve wider credentialed status, they will not and should not replace traditional educational institutions. Pricing, degree structure, and allocation of resources (professor pay vs. recreational amenities) might all need to be looked at but the mentor-pupil dynamic is essential to the liberal arts.
ML and NE were aimed at non-specialists and weren't rigorous. Maybe that's the objection?