THE WASHINGTON POST: One vision of tomorrow’s college: Cheap, and you get an education, not a degree

Career College Central Summary:

  • Organizations such as edX, Coursera, Udacity, Saylor, OLI and a range of others like the United Kingdom’s long-established Open University will continue to create and refine an ever-larger catalogue of college courses that anyone in the world with an Internet connection can take, for free. Over time, those courses will be organized into sequences that approximate the scope of learning we associate with college majors.
  • MIT is already moving in this direction, starting with a seven-course sequence in computer programming that begins with introductions to coding, computational thinking and data science, and then moves to software construction, digital circuits, programmable architectures and computer systems organization. The length of the course sequences will vary depending on the field or kind of work. Some will involve a few courses, others will be dozens long. Neither the courses nor the sequences will be constrained by the artificial limitations of semester hours.
  • The experience of taking these courses will be familiar in some ways. Education will still involve reading books, writing papers, solving problems, talking to other people and getting out into the world. Nobody is going to have information uploaded into their brain via coaxial cable, “Matrix”-style. We will still watch the Abelards of our time lecture, weaving characters, ideas and emotion into narratives of enlightenment. We will still exchange ideas with other people about what we’re learning.
  • In other ways, the courses will be quite different, built around immersive digital learning environments. These environments will not be designed by lone individuals. Instead, the best will be created by teams of people specializing in different aspects of the learning experience. They will be shaped and assembled using open-source components shared by millions of educators collaborating. They will benefit from network effects — the better they are, the more people will use them, generating more data and more money that can be used to make them better still.

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