Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Wall Street Journal article on "Higher Education's Online Revolution"

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Wall Street Journal article on "Higher Education's Online Revolution"

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A few weeks ago, I read this Wall Street Journal article, "Higher Education's Online Revolution"  by Mr. John E. Chubb, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover institution and member of its K-12 education task force, and Mr. Terry M. Moe, Professor of political science at Stanford and a senior Fellow at Hoover. BTW both Mr. Chubb and Mr. Moe have a PhD in Political Science (wonder why Wall Street Journal does not prefix Dr. against their name?).

I feel this is a vital article on online education (dated May 30th 2012) as it appears in a leading and very respected media outlet and is written by people with very strong education/academic credentials and associated with one of the well known technology and education innovation universities in the world, Stanford University. I have given some comments of mine as points below. They may make better sense when read in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal article. A few phrases and sentences from the article are quoted below.

  1. Initially when I viewed the edX announcement video my feeling was are they overdoing it? Yes, it was Presidents of MIT and Harvard, and top-notch Profs from MIT and Harvard on the panel with, IFIRC, Anant Agarwal referring to the printing-press (and others not rebutting it). But still, "biggest change in education since the printing press"? That's saying one heck of a lot. I mean I recall OCW made quite a splash a decade ago in the newspapers (I was in industry then but still came to know of it as it got so much publicity). But it did not really 'revolutionize' higher education. But as I thought about it and factored in what I have read (and shared some over email) about Stanford's AI class I felt that new factors like high-cost of higher education, student-debt-trap, powerful collaboration tools (students among themselves, students with Prof./teacher and/or Teaching Assistants etc.), *massive* affordable Internet penetration worldwide now as against a decade ago (in Puttaparthi, AP, India - a remote/rural town - where I live, a decade ago we did not not even have broadband access to Internet!), video medium teaching techniques having evolved (Sal Khan Style Videos - ksv's are what edX's Anant Agarwal said edX was using as a model for some aspects of these teaching techniques as Khan Academy of Sal Khan has become the poster-child of this new avatar of online education), grading and assessment (OCW may not have had that) and, last but certainly not the least, certification. MIT & Harvard are talking of great educational research possibilities from the data they will be collecting on the courses they run. So, maybe this time around, this new avatar of online education may really be a 'revolutionary' game-changer of education. I learned a new term, 'flipped classroom' from the edX site - I had read about this approach but did not know the jargon of 'flipped classroom'. I think education seems to be in for quite some 'flipping' in the coming years.

  1. How will they make money to sustain themselves if they give everything away for free? That's the big question on everybody's minds, I think.

  1. "One Nobel laureate can literally teach a million students, and for a very reasonable tuition price." That's some line.

  1. I guess that's what IT did to lot of industries (substitution of technology for labor). I have seen it happen in India and the world, while in industry for nearly two decades, from a pretty 'insider' kind of view, and, later in India, while out of industry but as a user of services in a rural Indian town (banking, railway reservation, post etc.) for nearly a decade.

  1. Having been involved in academic classroom/lab. teaching for nearly a decade and fair amount of software industry classroom/lab. teaching/training before that, I find these points (about advantages of online education technology) to be very impressive advantages over traditional classroom teaching model.

  1. I think this ("elite-caliber education to the masses") is the real winner point due to which institutions like MIT, Harvard, Stanford with backing from grant-giving foundations and perhaps political support from the US government may be pushing online education even if this is going to bring lot of disruption in the education system. Orders of magnitude more students benefit - so the pain of disruption/change is worth going through, perhaps. Another point is that in the competitive, meritocratic, capitalistic USA if MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton etc. don't then Udacity (for-profit company providing only online education and funded by venture capital) will. And Udacity may then get so ahead of the race that it may become the Google of higher education! Perhaps therefore MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc. don't have a choice if they want to retain their leadership in higher education. This is one of the fantastic benefits of the competitive market-driven model as against a bureaucratic government-regulated model like Indian academia which may choose or even be forced (due to community/political pressure) to just kill any disruptive change as it will be treated as a 'disturbance to existing system'.

  1. Interesting about skeptics worrying about "college experience" being destroyed by online learning and how the authors disagree with the skeptics. 'Flipped classroom' seems to be what they are talking about.

  1. "College X" mixing online courses with local Professor taught courses is a cool idea!

  1. That's a significant business number (doubling their share)! Hmmm. Seems to be making a strong case for for-profit education models "embracing technology" aggressively and profiting from it. I plan to read about the University of Phoenix foray into this area.

  1. Apple or Microsoft can do 'wonders' with such content if made available to them!!! The world has seen and experienced what they can do! Of course, the big concern will be whether they will lock away this content into some 'walled garden' that only they can profit from and, worse, only they can deliver.

  1. So humbly and clearly said ("The MITs and Harvards still don't really know what they are doing"). That's what even the edX announcement video conveys. One of the news reports talks of Anant Agarwal mentioning this area as a 'Wild West' area. I really appreciate this candour.

  1. I think the last paragraph of the article, quoted below, is worthy of real hard consideration by education policy makers, education administrators and educators. Perhaps they tell us of what is in store in this area in the coming years, worldwide - that's what the Internet is - a global phenomenon, and coming years not coming decades. "But like countless industries before it, higher education will be transformed by technology—and for the better. Elite players and upstarts, not-for-profits and for-profits, will compete for students, government funds and investment in pursuit of the future blend of service that works for their respective institutions and for the students each aims to serve."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

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