Sunday, July 11, 2010

The future of education

Films about the impact of technology on education seem to be produced with ever increasing regularity and below is one of the most recent to emerge though it hasn't reached viral proportions like so many others. The basic message is that low-cost or free online university education is increasing just as traditional campus education costs are soaring.

However the existence of the low-cost online variety presupposes the existence of the campus university and that such institutions have the resources to pay teachers to offer the online variety. MIT offers excellent free course material but it all costs a lot of money to produce. Without the income from campus students and research staff the universities would be pushed to offer so much online content. Online education gives universities the chance to reach out to new student groups who cannot afford full-time education or who cannot consider moving to campus.

This new market attracts many new types of educational institutions who are more flexible than traditional universities. I'm sure we will see new niche players specialising in, say, examination or providing a learning environment but I can't see the traditional university structure being swept away any time soon. The video shows that alternative models of higher education are gaining ground. It's not a battle, it's simply increasing diversity and the various forms are dependent on each other. Unfortunately many traditional universities are finding it hard to recognize the potential of the "alternative" forms.

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