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BYU Prof. Says University Classrooms Will Be "Irrelevant" By 2020 469

Posted by timothy
from the not-into-job-security dept.
dragoncortez writes "According to this Deseret News article, University classrooms will be obsolete by 2020. BYU professor David Wiley envisions a world where students listen to lectures on iPods, and those lectures are also available online to everyone anywhere for free. Course materials are shared between universities, science labs are virtual, and digital textbooks are free. He says, 'Higher education doesn't reflect the life that students are living ... today's colleges are typically tethered, isolated, generic, and closed.' In the world according to Wiley, universities would still make money, because they have a marketable commodity: to get college credits and a diploma, you'd have to be a paying customer. Wiley helped start Flat World Knowledge, which creates peer-reviewed textbooks that can be downloaded for free, or bought as paperbacks for $30."
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BYU Prof. Says University Classrooms Will Be "Irrelevant" By 2020

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  • Sure it will. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oligonicella (659917) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:16PM (#27663015)
    Right after the paperless office is perfected.
    • Re:Sure it will. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:28PM (#27663249) Homepage

      Right after the paperless office is perfected.

      Umm, whatever.

      Anyway, with the rise in online education, including charter schools (secondary) that are nearly all online, people are pushing their dollars towards institutions that aren't all brick and mortar. There are a few colleges that are all online and many of the brick and mortar schools are moving towards a format where blended courses (part online, part in-classroom) are the norm.

      Education is at least partially funded by the students themselves and the state governments that are well known to run their "businesses" poorly. By cutting down on capital costs and increasing the reach of the classrooms to students that are not within driving distance or don't have the time to work full time and take courses on the college's schedule, institutions with online components (or even totally online) will slowly become the norm.

      Why is this such a difficult thing for people to understand? While I enjoyed my physical college experience as an undergraduate, I could not possibly see myself going back to a brick and mortar institution for an advanced degree. The time and dollars necessary as well as the loss in income just wouldn't permit that to happen. Working in higher education for nearly a decade has taught me that I am not the only one. In fact, people that think like you do are way in the minority these days.

      • Re:Sure it will. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by anonymousbob22 (1320281) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:42PM (#27663529)
        It seems to me that online degrees do not garner anywhere near the same amount of credibility that is given to a traditional degree. As a current engineering undergrad that has taken some online courses in high school, I can imagine using online learning to supplement classroom education, but it certainly cannot replace it. Labs and hands on learning require physical presence.
        Also, by learning online, you're missing out on a lot of networking opportunities that you'd otherwise have with professors and other students. You can get to know professors over the internet, but it can't replace face to face conversation.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by garcia (6573)

          It seems to me that online degrees do not garner anywhere near the same amount of credibility that is given to a traditional degree. As a current engineering undergrad that has taken some online courses in high school, I can imagine using online learning to supplement classroom education, but it certainly cannot replace it. Labs and hands on learning require physical presence.

          You're right, online institutions are playing catchup as we speak with specialized accreditation but they are gaining it and gaining

        • Re:Sure it will. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @04:04PM (#27665999) Journal
          I agree, but I would emphasise the Networking Thing, A LOT. Example: Get a degree in CS in say, 1982. So, you learned to be a wiz at COBOL, BASIC, PASCAL, and C. Great. Now, no one uses COBOL or PASCAL as much as they used to, but that's not the point - you upgrade your skills as you go.

          However: you remember your buddy from English class. He got you in touch with some people at a party at his place. You end up marrying one of these people.

          Years later, you run into the buddy from English, and he says "Cool - i remember that - that was an awesome party. Do you know someone who can manage a group?" And you volunteer yourself, and the next thing you know, you have a new job.

          OR, you SUCK ASS at school, but your parents are rich and they send you to the best, and you join a frat and make lots of connections, and after all the booze you can drink, you sit your retarded self down and get elected president.

          It's like that. I would submit that the CONNECTIONS you make in university are just as important as the skills you learn and the ideas you are exposed to.

          RS

      • Re:Sure it will. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by theIsovist (1348209) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:52PM (#27663725)
        You ignore the benifit gained by being on campus with the professors and the students. With online classes, you do cut down on costs, but at the cost of human interaction. Your lessons become canned scripts, instead of lessons (hopefully) tailored to each class. You also lose the student culture, which is a huge part of college education. I cannot tell you how much I learned working with students in other fields, and the only reason we interacted is because we were in the same building together. Not only that, but it tempered my social skills, so that when I reached the working world, I understood how to interact with others.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Tanktalus (794810)

          As far as I recall, my courses (over ten years ago now) were pretty much all canned scripts. Except for when the idjuts started asking inane questions, and then the professor would carefully answer while the rest of the class got bored.

          Pros (from my recollection) would include:

          • course time when I am awake enough and ready for it,
          • being able to "skip" a class, and still catch up later just as effectively as if I hadn't skipped in the first place, and
          • not being bored out of my skull by the idiot questions ("T
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Atraxen (790188)

            People keep citing technology as a reason that the classroom will be obsolete, and following the basic premise that you've laid out: the lecture is canned, I could watch a video and get the same result. (I'm not ignoring the rest of your points, but I do want to respond to that one.)

            The current trend in educational technology is just the opposite - it's an attempt to make the dialog more symmetric (note: I did not say completely symmetric, and it should not be!) Student response systems (aka Clickers) allo

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hansamurai (907719)

          Online doesn't necessarily mean canned scripts where you click Next over and over. My wife finished her degree in a degree completion program through the University of Massachusetts. She had frequent teleconferencing sessions with her teacher and other students, and of course, tons of reading to do. She probably interacted more with her teachers in a year and a half through UMASS than I did in four years at the UW. More my own fault though.

      • Re:Sure it will. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by edwardd (127355) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:57PM (#27663823) Journal

        "and those lectures are also available online to everyone anywhere for free. Course materials are shared between universities, science labs are virtual, and digital textbooks are free."

        See, here's where the problem is. A college is a business, just like any other. They not only make money from the tuition, they make money on what they sell in the school book store.

        Even if this happens (which is very possible) it doesn't mean a free education. The material would be free, but you'll still pay steep prices for tuition. That's how it is today. I'm taking online courses, and the college does not discriminate in pricing; online & in class courses cost the same.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by eleuthero (812560)
          As one who teaches online, the course texts are often physical with a requirement to buy the book... which is by the lecturer... which they have to watch on DVD... which they have to buy as well. The school makes a significant portion of its online operations costs from book/dvd sales. Is it possible to just raise the cost of the program and have streamed video with digital books? Of course--but many people are still resistant to doing online work and it is better business to have a lower initial cost with
      • Re:Sure it will. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by QuantumRiff (120817) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:10PM (#27664011)

        I worked on a comitee to study distance learning for a group of 2 year colleges.. Several of the larger schools had this dream, about a person living alone on a mountaintop with an internet connection being able to get educated. (and the school getting state funding for providing that)..

        But realistically, you can study books all you want, but you will not truly understand anatomy until you actually cut into a cadaver. Many people can't learn Calculus in a book, and need a class, along with discussion with their teachers to grasp it. It is currently impossible to have any kind of "lab" class online. You can't even order some of the chemicals the chemistry lab has, without the goverment coming to check out if your the next unabomber... I guess in theory you could get a liberal arts degree, but there are only so many waitress positions available. ;)

        Not to mention the "working well with others" and the social interaction you get in person. The learning to put up with the guy next to you that clicks a pen all day, since in the real world, your going to have that guy in the next cube over..

        • by YouWantFriesWithThat (1123591) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:21PM (#27664203)

          you will not truly understand anatomy until you actually cut into a cadaver

          this is very true, however there is still no reason that i need to be on the campus to study cadavers. we need to get back to the roots of anatomy and the entire medical profession...and don't they have graveyards pretty much everywhere?

      • Re:Sure it will. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by backwardMechanic (959818) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:54PM (#27664885) Homepage
        Why is this such a difficult thing for people to understand?

        Because I'm a scientist. Students need to spend time outside of lectures, in the labs. It's where they learn the point of all the stuff taught in lectures - it's where we teach the craft. I enjoy giving my students something to calculate, and then measure - I try to choose something that is really difficult to calculate accurately. Sometimes the 'edge effects' dominate, and it's just quicker/more reliable to measure. A good scientist will spot those, but it only comes with practice. Tracking down the causes of those 'edge effects' takes a lot of years experience. Something you really don't get over the internet.
    • by bughunter (10093)

      Right after the paperless office is perfected.

      And right after college students learn to apply the same discipline to attending class and studying as they do to partying and carousing.

  • by Manhigh (148034) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:17PM (#27663031)

    If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree?

    As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

    • by Burkin (1534829) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:18PM (#27663041)
      Because an HR drone will discard your resume because you don't have a degree?
      • by pwizard2 (920421) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:52PM (#27663737)
        A degree isn't everything. All it does is prove you took a certain number of units at some university, but it is no guarantee that you actually learned anything other than how to pass the exams. I feel as though anyone who has the skills for a job should at least get an interview whether they have a degree or not. The longer you have been out of college, the less important the degree becomes anyway. (past experience takes precedent over everything else)
        • by Absentminded-Artist (560582) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:13PM (#27664043) Homepage

          A degree isn't everything. All it does is prove you took a certain number of units at some universityâ¦

          You're absolutely correct. I couldn't agree with you more. However, it still doesn't change the fact that degrees are used to filter out applicants. If you're able to get the jobs and experience without a degree that look good on a resume then more power to you, but not having the degree will make that a harder task, as well as affect your pay scale.

        • by epee1221 (873140) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:22PM (#27664241)

          it is no guarantee that you actually learned anything other than how to pass the exams

          Which is still more than can be guaranteed about the guy with no degree

          The longer you have been out of college, the less important the degree becomes anyway. (past experience takes precedent over everything else)

          When you're looking for your first job, OTOH, you have no past work experience, and if you don't get a first job, you'll never have any past work experience.

    • by Egdiroh (1086111) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:20PM (#27663097)

      If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree? As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

      By that reasoning most certification programs should be a thing of the past.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by sckeener (137243)

        If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree? As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

        By that reasoning most certification programs should be a thing of the past.

        Agreed. All the certifications I have passed, I've done through book study or cbts. I hated computer class room training.

        I still get certified even though I know the material because of the weed out factor which is the s

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ezelkow1 (693205)
          This may work for some degrees, but not the majority of engineering degrees. You really need the hands on training to understand the theory you learn in most of your classes. Doing this on your own is very hard mainly because the average person would not have access to all the resources. I.E. for computer engineering having access to the multi-thousand dollar programs to do chip synthesis, vhdl design, and fpga testing. Having access to logic analyzers and all the previous knowledge of professors and gr
      • by DeadDecoy (877617) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:06PM (#27663943)
        I find the difference between the two, certification programs and universities, is that for the former you're required to remember a body facts (which may or may not change) and in the latter you're required to understand the material and apply it to new situations. The difference is subtle but important. Having a certification informs your employer that you are a replaceable cog; that you have the exact criteria to do the job, no more no less. A university education (at least at the higher levels) would tell the employer that you have some body of knowledge but also the capacity above and beyond the minimum. This would allow them to invest in a partner rather than a replaceable cog.

        Now my views on this are probably limited, but that is my impression of what the two types of programs offer. Particularly from seeing all of the TV programs which advertise 'Get your degree in x-months to get a high paying job'. It all seems focused on teaching you the 'what' of learning instead of the 'how'. Ah but, maybe some ITT Tech graduate will prove me wrong.
    • by DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:20PM (#27663099)

      As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

      How do prove your understanding? Now, if only there was some sort of system to examine your understanding and award degrees...

    • Because they offer certify that you did learn the stuff. This is why Microsoft, Cisco... make tons of certs.
    • by RenHoek (101570) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:22PM (#27663129) Homepage

      1) Because having a teacher explaining things to you can be a lot easier then trying to absorb it from a book

      2) The internet is great, but some of the information is damn inaccurate. You would presume a university to make sure that what it teaches is correct and up-to-date. (Caveat emptor)

      3) While a manager can grill applicants to see if they really know everything what they need to know, it's a whole lot more efficient to have "RHCE" or "MSCE" etc. in your resume.

      • by AstrumPreliator (708436) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:01PM (#27663871)
        Actually university isn't so much about learning information (although you do learn a lot), it's more about learning how to learn. My room mate is a sophomore, whereas I graduate in a few weeks. I've noticed her coursework is very "Learn this, here's how to do X, now go do Y which is nearly identical to X." My coursework on the other hand is "Do Y, you're expected to learn how to do it." That little piece of paper doesn't say you know everything, it just says you know how to and are willing to learn.

        At least that's what I've gathered from my time at university.
        • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:46PM (#27664745)

          It also proves beyond a doubt that you could withstand an average length of association requiring the constant navigation of byzantine and plainly absurd, arbitrary and obstructing policies and procedures involving intensely egomaniacal petty infighting sadists and their droves of attendant sycophants competing for favor all the while being forced into insane and conflicting schedules designed explicitly to prevent you from accomplishing anything, yet degree in hand, you've proven that somehow you did and still had the composure to not get arrested at your commencement in a cathartic act of domestic terrorism.

          Your average high-school dropout realizes this is insane and simply wanders off in frustration, but someone with a degree has been highly conditioned to see it as acceptable, normal human behavior...which, sadly, it is.

    • by johnsonav (1098915) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:24PM (#27663155) Journal

      If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree?

      Education != Information.

      Just because I have a good portion of the world's information at my fingertips, doesn't mean that I know how to access, correlate, digest, or comprehend it. That's what college is for; it's not just rote memorization of facts.

      As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

      The degree is supposed to be the proof of your understanding. A equally comprehensive test would take just as long, and cost just as much.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree?

      Why do people pay for MCSE and similar certifications?

      As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

      As long as they can rely on universities and certifying organizations to vouch for people, at least as a first filter, why would hiring companies put more effort into letting candidates "prove their knowledge" in the first stage of the review pro

    • by UncleTogie (1004853) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:41PM (#27663513) Homepage Journal

      Interesting idea, but leaves the deaf folks out in the cold.

      I should know. Went to a class Saturday where the videos weren't subtitled. Fairly useless to me, but I muddled through.

      WITH subtitling, it might have some niche applications in distance education but I just can't see the brick and mortars going for this for all their students.

    • by Java Pimp (98454) <java_pimp@y a h oo.com> on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:43PM (#27663553) Homepage
      I bought my degree from the same people I buy my V1agr4.
    • by robthebloke (1308483) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:51PM (#27663699)
      Why pray tell would anyone want a degree? The simple answer is that you can learn far quicker if you can ask someone for help. That help may be the lecturer (who you'd hope is an expert), or it may be the 50 or so peers in your year group. I'd agree that the piece of paper at the end is largely irrelevant (aside from resumes), however the amount of knowledge you acquire along the way is far greater than attempting to go it alone

      Education is not just a case of having the material available to you. Education is, and always will be, a two way process. The lecturer delivers a lecture, the students ask questions, the lecturer answers said questions, and as a result the lecturer may change/modify/update his material to better reflect the needs of his/her students. I used to lecture a few years ago, and the students have a tendancy to keep you on your toes, and as a result you are always refining and improving your materials.

      If you remove the classroom and interaction from the equation, the lecturer can't push the student (academically), and the students can't push the lecturer to improve. After a few years without a classroom you'll have a stagnant department, in a stagnant university, taught by irrelevant lectures, and the final graduates will be largely ignored in the real world.

      Sure there are ways in which new technology can help deliver teaching materials in new ways, but it can't replace real physical interaction.

      My guess is that Prof David Wiley is approaching retirement, has a final salary pension, and is spouting any old drivel in order to form a committee to boost his responsibilities, and therefore earnings, and therefore pension pot. In my experience, that's normally the reason for crackpots spouting hugely flawed ideas.
  • by 77Punker (673758) <spencr04&highpoint,edu> on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:19PM (#27663067)

    I don't know what kind of classes he's teaching, but when I was in school asking questions and having some sort of discussion as part of the lecture was just as important as the textbook.

    Hearing perspectives and having those perspectives challenged and evaluated by your professors and fellow students is an integral component of the college experience. I doubt listening to iPod lectures would be nearly as useful.

    Giving out information for free is a great idea, but the electronic media can't replace human interaction.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by qbzzt (11136)

      Electronic media can't replace human interaction. It can, however, intermediate it. If you were in Austin, TX I could have told you that in person. But even if you're not, I can still say it.

      The classroom discussions will probably be replaced by blogs, chats, etc.

    • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:26PM (#27663217)

      Hearing perspectives and having those perspectives challenged and evaluated by your professors and fellow students is an integral component of the college experience.

      "What? You didn't support Obama last election? Get out of my classroom, you crypto-fascist son of a bitch!"

    • by Bazman (4849)

      In lectures these days in our department apparently the level of interaction is minimal. Maybe there will be one student who asks questions. Mostly they stare at their phones. Why? Well, one hypothesis is shyness, and the fear of being *wrong* or looking stupid.

      So to mitigate against this, our dept has bought a set of PRS units. Personal Response Systems. Every student gets one at the start of the lecture, and then when the lecturer wants to say "So, given all that, what would the answer to this question be

    • by sam0737 (648914)

      Absolutely agree. Lecture is mostly dead. I found myself skipped 50% of the classes. But classes does not consists the major part of my university life. Interaction with Professor, with Classmates, and the resources available in University that enable many more idea to be realized are the key.

      Did he mention virtual Lab? I didn't RTFA but how is it going to work!? unless you are saying we are plugged in the Matrix...

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:27PM (#27664341)

        I go to a small tech school, who's primary programs are IT and Medical Coding, and most all the labs are virtual. For the IT stuff they do have actual Cisco hardware to play with, but all the MS servers, etc were run on VM's and such, as well as most of the Cisco labs.

        Anatomy and physics classes were done via simulations on the computers. This is fine for anything short of becoming an actual nurse or doctor, or physicist, none of which were even close to being thought about being offered by the school.

        There are a very large number of programs that can be offered 100% remotely, without requiring physical labs or being physically in the room with the proffessor. I know a guy who got his advanced math degree over the internet, his class used collaberation software to hold classes and there was plenty of interaction. In fact, in that kind of environment people are a lot more likely to speak up than in a classroom with people watching.

        I think it's foolish to think ALL degrees will be even possible online, let alone that they will replace brick-and-mortar schools. There are too many degrees that absolutely require a physical presence. However, there are a heck of a lot of degrees that really don't require a physical presence, and those may well be offered online-only at some point. I think 11 years is a little hopeful though.

        • ...they are training simulators, but not "labs." While you can virtualize a server, and teach useful concepts to someone studying to be a certified technician or a computer scientist, you can't effectively virtualize a physics experiment or a dissection and call that a lab experience. Sure, you might teach some of the underlying concepts (which you could also do with, say, a slide presentation), you can't teach some kinds of muscle memory, nor can you convey things like subtle telltale odors (useful in ch

    • by eidosabi (857463) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @03:35PM (#27665547)
      He actually teaches very active courses, such as Introduction to Open Education - http://open.byu.edu/ipt692r-wiley/syllabus/ [byu.edu].

      On the other hand, the course is a massively multiplayer role-playing game in which students select a character class, develop specialized expertise, complete a series of individual quests, join a Guild, and work with members of their Guild to accomplish quests requiring a greater breadth of skills than any one student can develop during the course.

    • by cvd6262 (180823) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @04:23PM (#27666267)

      I've taken a class from him. You can sign up to follow his open learning seminar via his blog and wiki. Though his lectures are only on blipTV, he does read everyone's blog and will respond.

      I'm also a professor and I find blog-based discussion to be far superior to face-to-face. A few topics require the immediacy of being in person, but many many more conversations are best when each party has the time to think between submitting responses.

      However, the headline is taken WAY out of context. This is what he said:

      "If universities can't find the will to innovate and adapt to changes in the world around them (what's happening in the economy, affordability, the impacts of technology and openness, etc.)... universities will be irrelevant by 2020."

      Cited from his blog [opencontent.org]

  • This does seem likely.

    "What!" you scream. "No way. This doesn't sound like effective education."

    But I say, "Ah, does that matter? It's cheaper, and the current generation is probably universally going to grow up to go to college, so resources will be strung out a bit more."

  • Completely Agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squizzi (1180089) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:20PM (#27663079) Homepage
    All of my classes use Blackboard or Moodle, I barely take paper tests anymore (all online) .. and I regret buying 3 of my books because all of the text is online. I just finished up Cisco Netacad which had everything online, and am currently taking Redhat Academy. Not to mention, about 2 weeks ago I had a virtual lecture in Second Life! I still think going to class is essential however ... in some cases if I don't at least sit myself down in a class I begin to lose track and miss out on some of the more convenient information.
  • Untrue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LuYu (519260) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:20PM (#27663095) Homepage Journal

    Books and lectures are going to be digitised, but the one thing we truly need teachers and professors for will not change: Answering questions. Everybody understands information in their own way, and therefore, it takes a human being to pick up where the books and lectures leave off.

    Unfortunately, most college professors do not interact with students. Lectures were made obsolete by the invention of the book thousands of years ago, but still today we have professors lecturing from yellowed notes.

    I hope technology will finally force them to change their ways, but I doubt it will.

    • Re:Untrue (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Fallingcow (213461) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:27PM (#27663225) Homepage

      Unfortunately, most college professors do not interact with students. Lectures were made obsolete by the invention of the book thousands of years ago, but still today we have professors lecturing from yellowed notes.

      Oh, god, that was the worst. Bonus fail points if they turned the chapter in to a powerpoint presentation, then said nothing other than what was on the powerpoint slides. Then they'd require attendance, but be surprised that no-one was bothering to do the reading.

    • Re:Untrue (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tastiles (466054) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:32PM (#27663331)

      Unfortunately, at most universities, you'd be right, professors do not interact with students and there is no "real" communication. But there is already an alternative. Small colleges (less than 5000 students) with no TA's encourage communication and collaboration between undergraduate students and professors. I'm thrilled to be working at one. By far the best part of my day is office hours, working with individual students to better understand class or the textbook.

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        It seems things are turning; small colleges providing a better education with 20/30-student classes, whereas big universities offer better experience in the field, and 300/400-student classes. In high-school parlance, big colleges are now becoming "technical/trade schools".

        We almost need to go back to the old (really old) method; bunch of students pool their money and hire a professor.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by femtoguy (751223)

        As a faculty member at a fairly large private university, I have some opinions on that. I find that most of the actual learning occurs when I am talking with my students. This can occur in a large classroom as a conversation between me and a few students, with the other 250 students listening, it can occur with 30 students in a classroom, or it can occur in my office with 2 or 3 students. I have been forced to do on-line learning activities, mostly run through e-mail or bulletin board systems, and I have

    • Every generation wishes something would force them to change their ways.

      Then one day you wake up and gather your books and discover "them" in the mirror as you realize a hundred people even younger than you are going to be staring down at you wishing the same things you once did.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Potor (658520)

      ... but still today we have professors lecturing from yellowed notes.

      And yet you can pull out some cliche / hackneyed opinion and think it adds to the discussion?

      In some fields those yellowed notes are important, reflecting years of experience with perennial questions. I use the same notes over and over, and yet not a lecture goes by without me adding to them, or changing them, or annotating them.

  • It won't happen because if one could get a certified education from any on-line source, then the existing universities will be largely offshored, just like much of IT. The existing universities will rig the certification system to only license on-shore universities using the excuse of "human interaction" and other buzzwords. Unlike us programmers, the universities both have more political power and will exercise it to protect their rears.

    • by qbzzt (11136)

      The universities can make sure my degree from "New Delhi online school of IT" (NDOSOIT) is not accredited in the US. But in most cases I don't need it to be accredited - I just need it to be respected by employers.

      If employers can go to a reliable verification source and see that NDOSOIT is as good as the universities in the US, they won't care if the universities consider it accredited or not.

  • by MaXintosh (159753) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:22PM (#27663119)
    Hadn't we heard this all before? `TV is going to replace lectures.` God knows they probably said the same thing about radio replacing the classroom.
    Science labs - biology especially - can't be taught digitally. You need to go out and do. Chemistry is another lab that can't replacedThat Dr. Wiley thinks they can shows more his ignorance of subjects outside his own.
    And when it comes to lectures, there's just no substitute for human interaction. I've seen people at both my current institution, and my alma matter offer their entire course on MP3, video, and other media formats. Making a purely un-scientific guess, 95% of students don't use them as a replacement, but as a supplement to lecture. People seem to prefer the face time, and the ability to ask questions.

    We're social mammals. Classes are sticking around.
    • Everyone likes human interaction better, you are right. The question is, how much is it worth to you? If you could get a 20% reduction in tuition by watching movies instead, would you take it? A lot of people would. And hey, frankly it's better than having a graduate student teach the class, which happens in a lot of places.
  • At BYU. That's not a respectable title for this kind of speculation in my opinion. From his homepage [davidwiley.org]:

    * BFA, Music (Vocal Performance), Marshall University, 1997. (Voice Teacher: Paul Balshaw)
    * PhD, Instructional Psychology and Technology, Brigham Young University, 2000.
    * Postdoctoral Fellowship, Instructional Technology, Utah State University, 2001.

    Judging from his brief bio, this is something he'd like to see with little or no evidence to back it up. Good luck, man, I didn't find much backing this up other than you would like it.

    Wiley is one part Nostradamus and nine parts revolutionary, an educational evangelist who preaches ...

    You said it, not me.

  • Colleges and universities don't just provide information. They provide information in a particularly form, with someone to ask about the information, and test to verify that you know the information. Then, after all that, they provide a certification to prove to potential employers that you know that information.

    Yes, you can learn all the same info without them, but you have collect the data yourself from various sources and have the drive to actually learn all of it. You can take all the tests you want,

  • Eh. Maybe. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by D Ninja (825055) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:24PM (#27663157)

    I sort of agree with what the professor is saying. Already, lectures are available online (including the very awesome, Hulu-like site, Academic Earth [academicearth.org]), and the use of iTunes to distribute lectures is already taking place.

    Despite the usefulness of these technologies, I only think these things expand the reach of the classroom, but I definitely don't think that classrooms are going anywhere anytime soon. The use of websites and iTunes to reach people is no real difference than what books have done for a very long time. The people who are going to take time to watch the videos would have read the books.

    Additionally, I *highly* disagree with the idea that "today's colleges are typically tethered, isolated, generic, and closed." I went to an engineering university, and the amount of technical stuff going on there was absolutely awesome. All you had to do was attend one of the many seminars, working groups, or even a classroom to see amazing work that students were doing. Being around other students also spurred my own ideas towards various projects.

    Last of all, I'd argue that the teaching received in the classrooms really is very little about the college experience. Sure, someone may be able to "learn" a lot about physics from a podcast, but he or she is going to have little real-world experience. This, to me, was the most valuable experience I received from my college career.

    Basically, I think these technologies will help reach more people, but they aren't going to make the current world obsolete.

  • by khendron (225184) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:24PM (#27663159) Homepage

    ...where will I sleep?

  • The more the students sort out their own education via social networks and free coursewares, the more time we researchers and lecturers have for doing research and not having to punch information into undergrads....

    A friend of mine is teaching maths for final year environmental science students. One of them, confused about sines and cosines, asked "What is this 'trig' stuff?". Remember, these are _science_ students. If they want to learn trig by joining the Facebook We Love Trigonometry group then whoop-de

  • And you're really going to believe a guy who can't even create a powerful robot [wikipedia.org]?! Psh.

  • by TinBromide (921574) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:27PM (#27663221)
    When will people learn that you go to college to prepare for life, not just a job or career. You go to learn how to be self sufficient, to go to bed so you're not dead for classes, to show up, and generally learn to be an adult. College is an environment where a lot of people fail at that at first, but most, by the time they graduate, are capable of living on their own and holding some sort of job. College isn't just basic engineering or english or math, its basic life. If their parents can afford it, kids need to be out on their own in a forgiving environment like a dorm or college community where they do their own laundry and feed themselves.

    On the other side, merely showing up to classes, paying attention, and doing homework is another large part of being an adult. Meetings and work do not happen "whenever you get to it", I'd be sad to see classes go by the wayside if only because what you learn outside and around the class is just as vital in the long run as what you learn in class.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by astarf (1292110)
      I absolutely concur. It's also worth noting that being forced to sit in a room with other students and hold discussions is an immensely valuable experience. Otherwise, you might as well purchase a textbook, study on your own, and avoid the cost of tuition.
    • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:17PM (#27664125)

      Have you actually been to college? In college I learned how to procrastinate, how to pull all-nighters and still manage to take a test the next day, and how to avoid classes that I deemed unnecessary. As for learning self sufficiency, I lived in a dorm where food was prepared for me and bathrooms were cleaned for me.

      The most important thing I did learn was how to teach myself, because most of my professors weren't there to teach and weren't much help. This valuable lesson has helped me greatly in the real world, because nobody is going to hold my hand in the corporate world either. Everything else I learned in college, I've had to unlearn.

    • I imagine if college is teach a world without set times for tests, classes, and meetings, that most industry is going to head that way, too. The only people who will have to be at work at a fixed schedule are people like doctors, nurses, firefighers, and cops.
  • Networking? (Score:3, Informative)

    by svendsen (1029716) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:27PM (#27663231)
    Some good points in the article don't get me wrong. Right now I am going back for my 2nd master's degree. Being a little wiser now then my first time around I know one of the most important things (besides knowledge) is networking especially in this economy.

    Seeing a prof. face to face or going for a few beers after class helps build a strong network one can leverage.

    I'm not sure the pure online experience will allow for such strong networking. I know a few people who have done the pure online degrees (Univ. of Phoenix) when I ask them about their class mates, networking, etc. pretty much the answer I have received was there was none (or very little).

    So it will be interesting to see how that aspect plays out.
  • Seriously, I thought it was all about the social stature, earnings potential, open culture, plentiful recreational substances, and sea of prospective sex partners. Classes are when you sleep.

  • Nothing beats human interaction. Anyone can listen/watch a lecture recording, but participation requires genuine human interaction.

    The only thing that can really provide that is VR tech so good it fools the brains that it's real. Our understanding of how the senses really work is nowhere near there yet.

  • by hal2814 (725639) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:31PM (#27663321)

    I once had a profession with a similar idea. He thinks that you should go to the University, buy all the required textbooks, and show up 4 years later to get your degree. One student asked him, "How will they know if you really read the books?" The professor replied, "They don't care now."

  • No more classrooms! Where will students sleep?

    We're gonna breed a mutant race of sleep deprived zombies.

    What's the world coming to
  • If the entire class is essentially available for free digitally (save the actual exam), where is the motivation to create quality study materials? I'm sorry, but book profits are what drives newer and better textbooks into the book stores every year. Will this be a world where the prestige of the position and school you work for as a professor is dictated not only by your lectures, but also by the study material you contribute to the collective? I suspect it might be.
  • Dissect a pig on an iPod? Nope.
    Build a robot through a webinar? Not that either.
    Get good critique on a sculpture as I make if from an art-teacher 3 time-zones away? nope?
    I suppose I could make a remote-operated microscope, but who will work the petri dish.

    I suppose some fieds perhaps. Other require work in the field (anthropology for example) or in a lab (biology, physics) or in a group (music performance) or at an event (equestrian) or "on the job" (medicine).

  • You can learn valuable information for little to no cost now but that doesn't replace other valuable parts of a college experience. When you don't need a classroom you don't need to physically attend a college which sounds nice initially. The system he's suggesting doesn't create many significant networking opportunities and connecting with peers to build future job prospects is very valuable. In general technical folk don't tend to see the full utility of this but it is good to know people in your field
  • Consider: Academics have long had full access to journals, books, great libraries, and even peers in their departments. But still we go to conferences, and can be tremendously stimulated by them. Why is that? We've read the books and papers of the more interesting presenters already. We've even corresponded with a few. Despite all this, the right conference is uniquely valuable to focusing and improving our craft.

    It's the human factor - the full experience of the character of those who are having the best s

  • And so will paper in offices, and toilet paper, and cities, and and workplaces, and anything except our personal entertainment pods.

    The problem is, he assumes that classrooms are just places where the prof broadcasts, you receive, and then you leave. In bad classrooms that's true, and if they go the way of the dodo, the world might be a better place.

    But if he's going to argue that classrooms will be different, I'd agree: the 500 personal lecture hall that feels more like a train station, as discussed in Mu

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @01:49PM (#27663669) Journal
    .... 2019! bang! He is essentially saying, "Once I retire there is no one who is worth listening to in person and all professors will become irrelevant. Come on. Face it. I am the greatest prof of all time and after me it is not worth going to the univ. Just stand in line and buy my book."
  • by olddotter (638430) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @02:39PM (#27664605) Homepage

    That isn't to say the University experience should be dead. There is much to be gained by bringing people together physically as well as virtually to improve the learning process. At school you often learn as much from fellow students as you do from the professors. And lets not for get the research that good universities do.

    However there is little place in the modern world for a room where you sit and listen to a person "spout" knowledge at you. It is probably the case that that was NEVER a good approach to teaching anyway.

  • by professorguy (1108737) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @03:45PM (#27665717)
    I got my Master's in Software Engineering at Harvard. I was an IT professor at the time (for a small community college) where I ran some online offerings, ran a website for my own classes and some of the Harvard offerings, and even setup online courses as a TA at Harvard. I was also an 'online TA' running special bulletin board question and answer sessions for students who took classes online. So I'm not exactly an old fart too set in his ways to see the advantage of technology.

    Despite this, I took only 1 class online--for the other 13 classes I drove the 340 mile round trip to campus (a total of 60,000 miles for the degree). Why?

    Because, first I wanted to participate. I had the opportunity to become a TA, work with the online crew, get to know professors. I also got a job offer as a programmer at a research lab in Cambridge which was cool.

    Second, I flunked my online course--well, I got a C which doesn't get you grad credit at Harvard. That's because the streaming lectures were available 24/7. That means you can always catch it tomorrow. And pretty much anything that can be put off a day never gets done.

    Here I was working to perfect online ciricula with some of the smartest people I've ever met. But I know now that an online course is not the same thing as a real class. Whether it is an useful alternative depends on the student, but they are very different activities.
  • by EEBaum (520514) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @06:47PM (#27668355) Homepage
    Putting a metric buttload of students in a classroom and saying information in their general direction is very close to pointless, a pointlessness hardly restricted to college level. Smaller, interactive workshop-type classrooms, where there's actual feedback between the professor and students, though, are still very much relevant. I'd say it's more the "I talk at you, you write it down, you regurgitate it later" paradigm that's irrelevant, rather than the setting in which it is presented. Dumping 50, 100, 200, 500 students in one big room serves little purpose other than to push as many students through some required class with the lowest staff expenditure possible.

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