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Update on the Future of Higher Education

May 10, 2012

Last week I wrote:

So doesn’t it make sense to put lectures up online, freeing students to spend that time studying, while also making it more likely that the students will “attend” the lecture? That class time, now free, can be used for the seminars where real peer-to-peer learning happens.

Stanford medical school agrees with me:

Instead, they call for an embrace of the “flipped” classroom, where students review Khan Academy’s YouTube lectures at home and solve problems alongside professors in the classroom. Students seem to love the idea: when Stanford piloted the flipped classroom in a Biochemistry course, attendance ballooned from roughly 30% to 80%.

The so-called “Education Revolution” is coming faster than anticipated. Some schools appear to be in denial – that their traditional model is still relevant. Stanford is showing everyone what online education can do; they will soon be the leader in university education, while everyone else will be playing catch-up.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill S. permalink
    May 11, 2012 1:14 PM

    It may be trendy, and students may take to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s more effective at learning:

    http://fnoschese.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/khan-academy-and-the-effectiveness-of-science-videos/

  2. May 11, 2012 5:17 PM

    I don’t think it’s a matter of trendy. It’s a matter of effectively utilizing class time so that students can actually learn. The lecture is not at all an effective way to learn (since it’s essentially an inheritance from the medieval university). What Stanford medical school has done is say: “Hey, we know you don’t like going to lectures. Instead, we’re going to ask you to watch some videos and then we’re going to do actual work in class with the professor.” That students responded like they did says everything about where their priorities are – learning the material and passing the class.

  3. May 17, 2012 6:52 PM

    Hello – I’m sure you saw this in yesterday’s NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/opinion/friedman-come-the-revolution.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general
    Friedman is so wrong. Online learning removes the experiential, interactive qualities of an effective learning environment, and replaces it with ideas designed for mass consumption. This may be fine for certain fields of study (engineering? computer science?), but not for most education where the goal should be the development of critical thinking skills. Education is not just another commodity that can be packaged and quantified this way.

  4. May 17, 2012 10:37 PM

    Thanks for the link.

    I’m participating right now in a Comp Sci class on Coursera. The lecture structure is very good – it’s much better than a traditional lecture (I can elaborate if you’re interested). The question is: is this a replacement for a university education? No (at least not yet). Is it a good and cheap way to learn something interesting and maybe pick up some new skill(s)? Yes, it is, especially for students in developing countries like India, Russia, etc., who currently lack access to high-quality educational materials.

    I agree with you that education is treated like a commodity, but right now, companies like Coursera and Udacity are offering their courses for free or for a nominal fee. I won’t get worried until these organizations become for-profits and/or suggest that they are replacements for traditional universities (who have all kinds of problems as it is, not least of which is cost).

    The democratization of higher education is unquestionably a good thing. Right now, these courses also give on-the-fence students a chance to figure out what they’re interested in before plunging into $150k worth of debt. Just food for thought.

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