Is The Future of Higher Education Online?

Is The Future of Higher Education Online?

Submitted by Glenn Sheils

Quebec`s students were (and are) very vocal of the price of their education. This is, in my opinion, the beginning of a revolution in education. Right now these opportunities are non-credit, (but remember knowledge is never bad)….but what will things be like in 10 years? Will employers recognize these courses? Will traditional university programs accept the courses for transfer? Things look good on both fronts. I think it likely that we are seeing the birth of a ground shaking revolution. The internet is good for more than Facebook and cat videos, and we are starting to see it come into its own.

Things are rapidly changing in the higher education landscape. Technology has brought about changes that cannot be ignored. We can now distribute education to millions of students at a fraction of the traditional price. A confluence of events is forcing the hand of society.

It used to be that University cost a serious amount of money, and students expected that they would be rewarded with a reasonable salary upon graduation. Things have now changed…jobs can now shift instantly to India, and the Bachelor`s degree, which once was an achievement of distinction, is now de rigueur for many, many jobs.

Very respectable players have stepped up to the plate (MIT, Stanford and Harvard), to name a few. MIT has had their Open Course Ware courses online for a few years, and have just partnered with Harvard to create edx, which will offer non-credit courses, where successful students will receive a certificate of completion. Stanford, Princeton, U of Toronto, Georgia Tech and others have formed Coursera, which offers a similar program. Udacity offers IT courses, and is run by Stanford Comp-Sci Professors. Another startup, UoPeople, offers more than a collection of courses, they offer full 4 year degrees. They are non-accredited, but have just received a $500K grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to work on their accreditation. The same foundation also gave edx $1M  to create a framework to study better opportunities in online learning. These initiatives allow anyone with an internet connection to get higher education. These courses are all free, while a few ask a modest fee $50-$100 to cover grading, if a certificate is required.*

What this means is that anyone can learn. In Udacity`s first course in artificial intelligence, 25,000 people completed the course successfully. Think of the impact that professor had. A standard class may have several hundred students. This one had many thousand. Perhaps a boy in Bangladesh and a girl in Romania completed the course, and the seeds of the next Einstein or Edison are now born? Canada (and America) is in desperate need of scientists and engineers, this can only help.

Can everyone benefit from this? Obviously not. Courses that require a physical lab cannot be done online. One does not want to be in the Dentist`s chair and hear him say “$%@*&! this was easier in the online simulator” while drilling your tooth. But many disciplines can be done online….one might think of accounting, business, law, languages, social sciences, humanities, IT, math, the theory of any subject.

*I should also mention the Kahn Academy, while not offering courses of any kind, they are the YouTube of online education, offering educational videos on many subjects, though largely concentrating in math and economics. If I (or my child) needed help with a particular aspect of math, I would go there first for an additional lecture on it :) .


About the author:

Glenn Sheils was born in Toronto, ON. and has lived in Winnipeg MB., Beausejour MB. and Neuville QC. He is presently living in Quebec City, with his fiancee. He is working on a diploma in soutien informatique an will continue his education in that field

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