The above headline isn’t real but it soon could be if technological advances and shifting consumer habits disrupt higher educational institutions at the same rate as the Internet affected the newspaper industry. In fact, if students turn away from today’s expensive universities and colleges at a rate comparable to that which readers and advertisers fled the newspaper industry over the past decade, higher education institutions can expected to see a 30 percent reduction in employment, revenues plummet by 50 percent and over 700 universities shutter their doors in the coming decade.
Many skeptics of online education will say such a scenario is impossible. But is it? Most people agree that after increasing 400 percent since 1982, college tuition is a questionable bargain. Many students are either graduating woefully under-prepared for the workplace or deep in debt—and, often, both. Compounding the problem is the fact that alternatives to a typical college degree are only getting better.
It is this latter point that will likely catch many critics of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) off guard. Trying to assess the effectiveness of MOOCs today, at this early stage of their development—when many MOOCs are, admittedly, poor substitutes to a traditional education—is tantamount to viewing a Yellow Pages Internet Directory as an effective means of accessing and navigating the Internet. (Such a directory was actually once created and cost a staggering $29.95–see inset photo).
My point is that you can’t view MOOC’s through yesterday’s paradigm. MOOCs—much like the Internet of 1997—will only become better, more affordable and more accessible as technology continues to improve and as new practitioners reinvent and begin to master the art and science of delivering effective, personalized instruction to millions of individuals.
Now, I could be wrong but I hope you’ll revisit this post in 2022. My prediction is that spending $60,000 for one year of education at Stanford or Harvard–or even $10,000 at a state school–is going to be about as laughable as charging $29.95 for a Yellow Pages directory of the Internet is today.