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Education The Almighty Buck

All-You-Can-Eat College For $99-a-Month 272

Posted by Soulskill
from the om-nom-nom dept.
theodp writes "Writing in Washington Monthly, Kevin Carey has seen the future of college education. It costs $99-a-month, and there's no limit on the number of courses you can take. Tiny online education firm StraighterLine is out to challenge the seeming permanency of traditional colleges and universities. How? Like Craigslist, StraighterLine threatens the most profitable piece of its competitors' business: freshman lectures, higher education's equivalent of the classified section. It's no surprise, then, that as StraighterLine tried to buck the system, the system began to push back, challenging deals the company struck with accredited traditional and for-profit institutions to allow StraighterLine courses to be transferred for credit. But even if StraighterLine doesn't succeed in bringing extremely cheap college courses to the masses, it's likely that another player eventually will."
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All-You-Can-Eat College For $99-a-Month

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  • by SomeGuyFromCA (197979) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:20AM (#29323375) Journal

    This already exists... I went to community college for about $300-$400 a semester, including books, supplies and parking. What, just because it's on the internet, it's a new concept?

    Oh. RIGHT...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by east coast (590680)
      I hate to break it to you but that must have been some pretty sweet times. Today my closest community college charges about 95 USD per credit and if you need to see what a text book costs go to Amazon.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sconeu (64226)

        Going this semester for some professional development.

        6 unit + student fees + parking -- $126
        Books: $145 at amazon

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by armanox (826486)
      Lucky you. I did one semester at a local Comunity College. $1200 for tuition and fees, and then another $500 for books.
      • by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:25PM (#29325935) Homepage

        Lucky you. I did one semester at a local Comunity College. $1200 for tuition and fees, and then another $500 for books.

        In my country education is free...
        And on-top of that we get educational support, which is just about a 1000USD per month... I have to buy my own books, do my own cooking, laundry and have a place to sleep, but student housing programs and government housing support (on-top of the educational support) makes my education virtually free...
        But if you want to go out once in a while... Buy a new laptop, tv, stuff like that it's good to have a little savings, or take a student loan (which the government offers at a favorable price).
        By the way I live in Denmark, Europe... :)

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @12:12PM (#29323803) Journal

      What, just because it's on the internet, it's a new concept?

      No, actually, that still doesn't make it a new concept [openuniversity.ac.uk].

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by anexkahn (935249)
      $20/unit for in state tuition at a community college in California (Where I live). Out of state tuition is currently about $185/unit or $200/unit depending on if you are doing summer classes or other.

      Books should average about $250/semester

      http://www.cos.edu/view_page.asp?nodeid=2822&parentid=2864&moduleid=1 [cos.edu]

      This information is according to the College of the Siskiyous website (Where I went to community college 8 years ago).

      Assuming you take 15 units/semester which is what you need to grad
    • by wrf3 (314267)

      With these price comparisons, are any of the brick-and- mortar costs subsidized by federal, state, or local funds? If so, then unsubsidized costs should be compared.

    • At my Uni, they charge mid level state tuition, but tack on over 2500+ dollars worth of "fees", all not including books. Using the GI Bill I was not even able to cover school costs, much less living and school. That's why now I suggest to my siblings (2 are about to go to college) that they first get a two year with a community college that works with the college they really want to go to, and then to transfer. If you graduate from a Uni after transferring from a community college, it doesn't say "Transfer

    • by cvd6262 (180823)

      Price are higher now, but you're on the right track.

      A colleague at a top-tier university called me up with the exciting news that some educational reform theorist from an Ivy League school had just visited to explain the future of higher education. His ideas included getting professional practitioners to teach courses in their field, holding classes on students' schedule, removing many residency restrictions, etc.

      Congratulations, I told him, you just discovered the community college.

  • When $99/month becomes the future of (community) college, then you're going to see people competing for the schools that are desirable enough that they can still charge $30K/year like the Ivies do.

    Then again, most people coming out of those aren't going into IT... except as managers.

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:43AM (#29323577)
      To be perfectly honest, most people don't really need a college eduction. The thing is, our society seems to make more and more people take college classes. When people have no real use for the classes, the natural outcome is degree mills and cheaper education. A 2 month on the job training would do better than college for 65% of most jobs.
      • by thesandtiger (819476) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @12:15PM (#29323811)

        Need for work? No.

        Potentially benefit massively from in ways completely removed from work? Yes.

        More education gives people a more broad experience of the world in that it opens up areas they may not have otherwise been exposed to. Sometimes this is frustrating (witness many /.ers bitching about how they had to take english lit classes when they just wanted to be engineers) and obnoxious, but it helps folks to avoid the tendency to becoming hyperspecialized drones.

        A lot of people who were self-taught think that anyone who wants to know about something will just go look it up - but usually these self-taught individuals are completely unaware of huge swaths of ideas and terrain that have been explored because they weren't required to take classes in subjects that initially didn't interest them.

        Full disclosure: I was sort of like that myself - I absolutely loathed the idea of certain classes that were just not interesting to me. Then I grew up, and discovered that there's more to conversation than whatever was on TV last night, there's more to life than work and talking about work, and in fact, I've been turned on to many new activities and interests thanks to some of those "useless" classes.

        It also wound up having a TREMENDOUS impact on my career: I used to work in tech, and when I went back to school I wound up surveying a couple of psychology courses, and it turns out that the "expreimental design in psychology" course that I took was INCREDIBLY fascinating. Trying to design experiments with human subjects - subjects who can and will lie, try to wreck the experiment, or otherwise do the least amount of work to get their pay - is VERY challenging, VERY interesting, and VERY fun. Even better for me, I was able to bring my technology skills into a field where there is not a lot of technological know-how, and so some incredibly obvious things I developed and implemented wound up being very valuable to my lab, and helped to really accelerate my career; despite coming to the field I now work in so late in my life/career, I've been promoted several times and in the 1.5 years that I've been out of school since getting my new degree, I've been made a director at my lab.

        The point to this is that we are not insects, we are not our jobs, and learning new things - even things that are possibly frivolous - is tremendous. EVERYONE in the world can benefit from learning new things, especially the people who don't have the finances to attend more expensive schools; I'll say those people are probably the ones who benefit most from exposure to new ideas and ways of being.

        If your college degree is only helping in your job, or if you're going to college solely to get a better job - well, that's certainly your right, but you're really missing out on 90% of what an education can (and IMO, should) be.

        • More education gives people a more broad experience of the world...

          Maybe you're thinking of an education that was offered in the past, or at a really nice school now. I think the average college education nowadays has much less of this quality than it used to, since a lot of them are morphing into degree mills at varying rates.

          • by SL Baur (19540)

            I think the average college education nowadays has much less of this quality than it used to, since a lot of them are morphing into degree mills at varying rates.

            You're right, I think.

            I wish I could think of a decent car analogy, but how about a WoW analogy? Think of the off-major required courses as daily quests, except that the college uses them to collect money from you.

          • by Trebonius (29177)

            As with many things, you get out of it what you put in. All of these opportunities are still there, but if you don't choose to pursue them they won't pursue you.

            College is a fantastic opportunity for learning, but it's not as strictly required anymore.

        • Sure, but similarly I think I find out way more interesting information on the internet than in classes. How many of us have spent hours on Wikipedia finding out random things they never would have looked at before? Last night I spent a few hours looking at Norse mythology and it was pretty interesting.

          Your argument is correct if there wasn't the internet, but since there is, most people don't need college to learn more about the world, its just as easy to hop on Google and find out more interesting inf
          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            Well, before the internet, there was this place called the library. You could go there and learn about anything you wanted. Seriously, just having the information available isn't going to make most people go out and actively learn about it. Most people (not you, not I) wouldn't spend an extra hour learning something they didn't have to, let alone enough time to have a good amount of knowledge in the topic to hold up a good conversation. That's what most people get out of college. You have to take certa
          • by Macrat (638047)

            Your argument is correct if there wasn't the internet, but since there is, most people don't need college to learn more about the world, its just as easy to hop on Google and find out more interesting information in a few hours than in a semester of lectures by a professor. All for free.

            Like how to be a birther

            Or how to scream and disrupt town hall meetings.

            • by Lars T. (470328)

              Your argument is correct if there wasn't the internet, but since there is, most people don't need college to learn more about the world, its just as easy to hop on Google and find out more interesting information in a few hours than in a semester of lectures by a professor. All for free.

              Like how to be a birther

              Or how to scream and disrupt town hall meetings.

              Oh come on, who goes to the intarweb for that when he gets it all for free from the TV?

          • Wow, you are making a really big assumption there...that the information you find on the internet is accurate. Don't trust everything you read, especially from only one source. A college education is not about job training it is about learning how to learn and one of the earliest lessons is to get your facts from more than one source.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SL Baur (19540)

          witness many /.ers bitching about how they had to take english lit classes when they just wanted to be engineers

          My beef with lit classes in college is that they are all about kissing the professor's ass. If that's the direction you want to go, more power to you. I love Shakespeare and one of the worst mistakes I ever made in college was taking a Shakespeare class.

          Disclaimer: My favorite class in High School was an American lit class with a teacher who loved to teach and inspire students. He certainly inspired me.

          • That's a bad teacher, and certainly not a universal thing. I've had Maths classes that were taught by egomaniacs, and I've had fluffy basket-weaving type classes taught by the marquee experts in their fields who were completely down to earth. Get good instructors, and it'll be great. I'd say that my experience of ego-freaks in electives vs. ego-freaks in required courses was about the same, so it isn't that one's more likely than another.

          • by kklein (900361) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @07:53PM (#29327479)

            I loved my Shakespeare prof in college. I took him for 2 Shakespeare classes and a classical mythology. One of the things I loved about him was that he didn't require you to agree with him. You DID, however, have to read--the best bullshit detector I've ever come across.

            I had a prof for a Thoreau class, though, who fit that negative stereotype perfectly. Outdoorsy hippie naturalist students got As; those of us who, for example, interpreted vast sections of his writing as masked professions of homosexual longing, however, found ourselves with Cs on every assignment. I actually went to her office twice and basically pleaded, "What do you WANT?" It was a required 400-level class, and I was just trying to get out of school at that point. I'd been kind of biding my time in the English department, waiting for the International Studies degree program to start, after which I could transfer in all my Japanese language and Asian history/poli-sci/economics credits and get a degree that reflected what I'd actually spent my mental energy on--a program that, once it finally materialized, was in the ART DEPARTMENT--No thanks! I'll take English over that!!!

            She told me I needed to try to get in touch with nature more.

            Towards the end of the class I just kind of gave up. I said, "I don't see why my personal philosophical orientation towards nature should have anything to do with my grade in a literature class." I kind of resigned myself to getting a C in my last semester of university, in my major department, and having to take another semester to make up that one class.

            Then my professor invited a renowned Thoreau scholar to come speak to us.

            He said at one point, "of course, all serious Thoreau scholars now recognize that Thoreau was gay, and that much of his writing was an attempt to deal with that in a society in which that could be dangerous." I shot a glance at my prof. She blushed and lowered her eyes.

            I got an A.

            If you are a high school or early-undergrad who is reading this, please take my advice on this: DON'T major in English, or any of the humanities, unless you want to be a teacher. That is coming from a university English professor (well, a linguist, whose research is all statistics, but who works in an English department). Just don't do it. It is a silly place.

        • by Narpak (961733)

          More education gives people a more broad experience of the world in that it opens up areas they may not have otherwise been exposed to. Sometimes this is frustrating (witness many /.ers bitching about how they had to take english lit classes when they just wanted to be engineers) and obnoxious, but it helps folks to avoid the tendency to becoming hyperspecialized drones.

          I agree that a wide basic education is a good thing. Exposing people to various ideas and concepts could help broaden their mind and perspective. Though whether or not the current implementation actually work, or if it "helps folks avoid the tendency to become hyperspecialized drones" is hard, if not impossible, to judge. Some no doubt have a positive experience, and some probably don't. Some find new things they like, and some fallout of the educational system all-together because they are unable to pass

      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @12:23PM (#29323869) Homepage

        To be perfectly honest, most people don't really need a college eduction. The thing is, our society seems to make more and more people take college classes. When people have no real use for the classes, the natural outcome is degree mills and cheaper education.

        I think another part of the problem is it turns the rest of education into "college preparation" instead of real education. Right now, I'm almost inclined to say we want everyone to go to college, but the reason for that being that education all the way up through high school isn't much of an education. We've lowered our standards so far that we consider the ideal high school kid one who behaves himself, and we don't give any kind of vocational training or responsibility until after college. And then we can't seem to decide whether college is vocational training or real education.

        I really think we need to step back and reinvent out public education by asking, "What is it that we want people to learn, and what knowledge and skills do we want the least educated in our society to have." No, I don't think that's what we're doing now. I think we're pretty well running our education system on inertia alone. But once we get good at making sure everyone knows whatever we consider the "base minimum," we can split off those who *want* to pursue further education from those who would prefer vocational training for a good job that's useful to society.

        Not everyone needs to go to college, but we're better off if everyone has a decent education. Ignorance isn't good for anyone.

        • I think another part of the problem is it turns the rest of education into "college preparation" instead of real education. Right now, I'm almost inclined to say we want everyone to go to college, but the reason for that being that education all the way up through high school isn't much of an education. We've lowered our standards so far that we consider the ideal high school kid one who behaves himself, and we don't give any kind of vocational training or responsibility until after college. And then we can't seem to decide whether college is vocational training or real education.

          Exactly, they don't teach more than the fundamentals. While without a doubt most kids learn more in school most of it is useless to their lives. I've noticed it especially with the decline of shop and industrial classes vs "academic" classes, when I was in high school you pretty much had two choices, either take all lower classes and go to shop and industrial classes or take "academic" classes that were strongly suggested if you were to ever go to college. In general the shop classes were scheduled during

      • by Narpak (961733)

        To be perfectly honest, most people don't really need a college eduction. The thing is, our society seems to make more and more people take college classes. When people have no real use for the classes, the natural outcome is degree mills and cheaper education. A 2 month on the job training would do better than college for 65% of most jobs.

        Agreed. At the end of the day what is important is that the individual in question knows what is needed for the job at hand, and some way of showing that to prospective employers. How they acquire that knowledge is really secondary.

        Now I would agree that Universities does have their place in a versatile and comprehensive educational system, but they are not the only way to a "higher education" and for some the University experience can quickly get sidetracked by non-educational activities. Though I am no

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by HangingChad (677530)

        To be perfectly honest, most people don't really need a college eduction.

        That really depends on how you define "need". Most people may not need college to do their job but we have a crying need for a better educated populace. Education pays dividends in a lot of ways that aren't immediately related to someone doing a specific job.

        College was the best thing I ever did for my mind. I had to read books I wouldn't have picked up on my own, had to understand points of view that I didn't necessarily agree

      • There were very, very few classes I ever took that gave me more than I could have read in a book. Almost everything I have learned, I have learned from reading on my own time.

        And 90% of my professors were not particularly bright people -- although they all had long lists of credentials. (I went to a top university).

        In a nutshell: College is an absurdly overpriced system of structured reading. Why our society demands such a bizarre institution, I have no idea. Perhaps it is a way to force the uninterest

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pla (258480)
      you're going to see people competing for the schools that are desirable enough that they can still charge $30K/year like the Ivies do.

      You miss the point. This doesn't mean getting a degree from the University of Phoenix... You take the fluffy liberal arts prereqs of which most universities require a good two years' worth, then get your actual degree from the Ivy.

      And I have no problem with that, as long as they actually uphold some decent academic standards rather than just passing any moron who can po
  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:24AM (#29323407)

    Now go ahead and wonder why smart but poor students need to sell their future to get a chance for a decent life.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Maxo-Texas (864189)

      With college and health care, corporations have developed a really nice system of voluntary slavery.

      IT is the worst- 200+ people at my company are working on a project with such insane deadlines that they are working 10 hours a day- then going home and working 2 hours off the clock.

      And they are *happy* to be on this project. They are going to give up three years of their youthful lives. There is no bonus at the end for them-- there will be for the departmental president (and likely promotion to the execut

    • by SL Baur (19540)

      It isn't for profit. When I entered Caltech in 1980, endowment was approximately $1M per student. They didn't have any need to charge us any tuition at all.

      I was told point blank by the financial aid person that tuition rates were set to keep pace with Stanford and Harvard so parents wouldn't think it was a two-bit school.

  • by xkcdFan1011011101111 (1494551) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:30AM (#29323459)
    This type of system will never dominate the top engineering/science schools. The key to a top notch eng/sci school is extremely knowledgeable faculty that know how to teach and know what material/projects are important for students. Maybe that's why this StraighterLine company focuses mostly on freshman courses...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It seems like the two are really complementary.

      There are plenty of subjects that are necessary for the study of advanced science or engineering(or advanced topics in the humanities for that matter) that do not themselves require an especially high caliber of teaching. Downright bad teaching isn't good enough; but the difference between decent and brilliant isn't huge.

      Taking those courses at a top school is a waste. Of money, sure; but also of time. You pretty much get a finite number of course slots d
    • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:59AM (#29323715) Journal

      If all you want to do is learn for free, you can always watch lectures online.

      http://www.youtube.com/user/MIT [youtube.com]
      http://www.youtube.com/user/stanforduniversity [youtube.com]
      http://www.youtube.com/user/ucberkeley [youtube.com]

      You can even get lectures from Australia or India:
      http://www.youtube.com/user/unsw [youtube.com]
      http://www.youtube.com/user/nptelhrd [youtube.com]

      And if you want to learn stuff like how to solder and splice try http://www.tpub.com/neets/ [tpub.com]

      Or watch someone make vacuum tubes:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl-QMuUQhVM [youtube.com]
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9S5OwqOXen8 [youtube.com]

      Sure you might not be able to afford all that equipment to actually do everything. But at least you have a better idea of what you might like and what's worth it before forking out lots of money (or going in debt) in fees.

    • by nametaken (610866)

      Nothing wrong with that. It's the many thousands that schools gouge for gen ed courses that pissed me off. 100 people in a class with no real resources, listening to a completely disinterested, borderline faceless instructor? NOT WORTH IT.

      I ended up switching to a great community college where the instructors, facilities and resources were FAR better. I learned more there than anywhere I've ever gone. Then I transferred to uni for classes specific to my major for the higher end instructors in the field

    • by Frequency Domain (601421) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @12:07PM (#29323767)

      This type of system will never dominate the top engineering/science schools. The key to a top notch eng/sci school is extremely knowledgeable faculty that know how to teach and know what material/projects are important for students. Maybe that's why this StraighterLine company focuses mostly on freshman courses...

      I agree completely. It has always been possible to get almost all of the material found in a typical undergrad curriculum from your public library, and there have always been people who have done so. So why doesn't everybody get educated that way? Because most of us need the guidance and structure provided by a curriculum, not to mention the dedicated blocks of time that you have to carve out of your life if you're not a full time student. There's also the trusted agent certification aspect. Schools with top reputations still produce some duds, but there's a reason people value an education from Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Berkeley, MIT,... As you move into the top tiers of schools, the ratio of duds to doers declines. (How's that for alliteration?)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by SL Baur (19540)

        As you move into the top tiers of schools, the ratio of duds to doers declines.

        Actually, that's a non sequitur. President Bush graduated from Yale; many people called him a dud, but hey, he got the top job the country has to offer and he got to spend the legal limit of 8 years at it.

        My personal opinion regarding Stanford, Yale, Harvard, etc. is that their graduates have rich parents or rich financial backers (including special scholarships).

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:35AM (#29323505) Journal
    It's the friendships and connections you make there that really matter. Any idiot can memorise equations. Any fool can jump through a hoop. But work on a team project and make a connectionï, make friends that can help you later, and people you can help later - THAT'S why people spend stupid amounts of money on an Ivy League education. "What you know" is assumed. "Who you know" is particular and requires access.

    As a consequence, such an "education" as described in TFA is more a training system, the reproduction of the proletariat, not an education, not a method of making connection.

    RS

    • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:47AM (#29323619) Journal
      The fact that the people running the companies that make up most of the economy are chosen based on who they know despite their lack of ability to find their ass with both hands and a map is a large part of the reason that the global economy is melting down right now.
    • by pla (258480) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:56AM (#29323687) Journal
      But work on a team project and make a connection, make friends that can help you later, and people you can help later

      You know what I learned from "team" projects in college?

      Just do the whole damned thing yourself if you want any shot at passing. Because otherwise, come the due date you'll have your part done, one person with a partially-working-but-incompatible part, and three people with weak excuses.

      I learned that "team" really does have a "me" in it, and you can't spell much with "ta". And, after 10 years in the "real" working world, I haven't found much to change my opinion on that matter.



      THAT'S why people spend stupid amounts of money on an Ivy League education. "What you know" is assumed. "Who you know" is particular and requires access.

      One small correction there - In the case of Ivies, "Who you know" counts as a prerequisite for getting in, not a benefit of going there.
      • You know what I learned from "team" projects in college?

        Just do the whole damned thing yourself if you want any shot at passing.

        Dear gods, yes. The only time I didn't have to do that was when I was in a class with a co-worker that was as interested as I was in learning something and passing the class. The rest of the time it was amusing to watch other people try to walk the "how little can I do" line.

  • Maybe so... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:38AM (#29323533)
    This may be credits for cheap. You may be learning (nearly) as much as a regular university and you may even do it faster. BUT I didn't think that was the purpose of university. I thought the whole point was to get a high paying job. And I'm unconvinced that this can provide.

    If you just wanted to go to school to learn sure. But I don't think that has been the main focus for many years now.
    • by ciaohound (118419) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @12:11PM (#29323789)

      I thought the whole point was to get a high paying job.

      I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Liberal Arts students suddenly cried out in horror.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by An dochasac (591582)
        As a science major, I felt a great disturbance in the force when Reaganomics shifted universities from learning and R&D institutions into glorified trade schools. The engineering and computer science programs were particularly overwhelmed by students whose talents and interests were elsewhere but whose counselors and student debt demanded that they get a degree in what's hot at the moment. A few years later it was MBA and we got a glut of substandard MBAs, then it was Law and I don't know what's next,
  • by pla (258480) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:38AM (#29323535) Journal
    "Facebook protest".

    Your ancestors - Not impressed.
  • I have seen blatant advertising in the editorial section /., but this is a new level of inclusion.

    The first thing that comes to mind is that this is not bucking the system, or at least not the system of traditional college education. Rather, this is bucking the more recent trend of exorbitant prices for sheets of paper, not even sheep skin, where what the student has learned is perhaps of little or no consequence. To be frank, compared to what the University of Phoenix of Walden charges, this may be a s

  • by lexDysic (542023) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:57AM (#29323693)
    As a professor, I have two tasks that I must perform in every class I teach. I must educate my students, and I must evaluate their work. No one has ever explained to me how the 'evaluation' process can reasonably work in an on-line setting. Nothing is stopping me from enrolling my girlfriend's cat in an on-line degree program and taking all his tests. I assure you, Marvin's grades will be very good, but I don't suggest you hire him; he would be sleeping on the job an awful lot.

    It's a shame, because I think that for many students, these kinds of programs could provide an education as good or better than a traditional classroom for a much lower price. But until there is a good reason to take the final transcript seriously, I don't think it will ever really catch on.
    • by pjt33 (739471)

      Marking essays remotely should be straightforward enough, and allows a student who isn't cheating to get some idea of how they're doing. Then bring them in for two days to sit down in front of an invigilator and take exams which count for most or all of the credit.

      I think that's how it was supposed to work with the distance learning course I enrolled in a few years back, but they didn't seem to have the concept of administration. When I failed to get the mark back for my first essay, and repeated e-mails ha

    • by goodmanj (234846)

      I agree absolutely. A diploma is not a piece of paper you paid $100,000 (or whatever) for: it's a guarantee by the college that you have mastered certain skills which employers find useful.

      If a college cannot believably make that guarantee, they shouldn't be offering degrees, and shouldn't be accredited.

      In short:
      online courseware + diploma mill =/= college.

    • by wrf3 (314267)

      I don't expect you to do my job for me. I've had too many job applicants from prestigious universities whose degree was no indication of their knowledge. If I end up hiring a "cat", I'm capable of firing the same.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @12:43PM (#29323957) Journal

      Nothing is stopping me from enrolling my girlfriend's cat in an on-line degree program and taking all his tests.

      The same is true of physical universities. There have been a few cases recently where wealthy South-East Asian families have sent someone else to university in their son's place. The surrogate has attended the lectures and sat the exams. Even if the lecturer comes to the exam, he still won't be able to say 'you're not the correct student' (even if he does recognise his students) because the person sitting the exam is the one who was in the classes. At the end, someone gets a degree without ever having been to university.

      If you're wondering why the person you hired doesn't seem to have the most basic understanding of the subject, then it may be because the person who actually did their degree is working in McDonalds because he can't get hired for a skilled job without a degree...

      Over time, I expect the assessment part of a university to dwindle. If you look at companies like Google or Microsoft, they don't hire based on your qualifications at all. They regard them as simple ticks in boxes, and hire based on the results of a day-long (or longer for some companies) assessment.

    • by goodmanj (234846)

      Oh, and lexDysic: please, do try to get Marvin an online degree. Seriously. It's a pretty labor-intensive stunt, but it'd probably get national news recognition, and would prove your point way better than a thousand posts to Slashdot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by brian_tanner (1022773)
      It's not necessarily as hard as it sounds to evaluate people online. I took a course in computer networks from an online university in Canada. I had some programming projects and assignments to do, but they were not worth much (like a typical CS class). Those, yes, I could have faked easily with the help of others if I needed.

      However, the final exam was worth about 75% of my final grade, and I had to take that exam under supervision at my university. I'm sure there are other testing facilities that c
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mr. Slippery (47854)

      No one has ever explained to me how the 'evaluation' process can reasonably work in an on-line setting.

      How is it any more difficult to evaluate an essay or project submitted electronically than one submitted on dead trees?

      Nothing is stopping me from enrolling my girlfriend's cat in an on-line degree program and taking all his tests.

      Ah, now that's a problem of authentication, completely orthogonal to evaluation.

      Nothing (except my generally honest nature, and a lack of money) was stopping me from hiring a s

  • by ciaohound (118419) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @11:57AM (#29323699)

    It's not just freshman classes that subsidize the more expensive offerings. Humanities courses cost less than sciences but are billed at the same rate, so English departments subsidize more costly departments. The people in these institutions are uncomfortable talking about who subsidizes whom [nytimes.com]. In business, the criterion is simple: make your unit profitable or it dies. Colleges have been unwilling to live by that. As a result, programs aren't cut and tuition only goes up. But as we know, unsustainable trends cannot be sustained indefinitely. The brightest minds no doubt will continue to get free rides to places like Harvard, but I suspect that some other bright minds are at work on creative ways to get tuition within reach for those who have to pay their own way.

    • While it's true that English departments cost less to run than, say, a chemistry department, there are generally larger grants and scholarships available to science departments to offset their costs. The fixed costs, such as professor salaries and department administration, would be about the same across like-sized departments.

      I disagree with your assertion that a unit needs to be profitable to exist. There are many worthwhile pursuits that often fall under the radar of popularity, and thus profitability. T

  • Profitable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @12:11PM (#29323793)

    I wasn't aware that Colleges and Universities were for-profit driven businesses. I just don't accept the premise that "freshmen lecture" is driven by profit motive.

    Degree mills and correspondence schools aren't really anything new. Online education isn't really either. I remember 25 years ago QuantumLink (the predecessor to AOL) had an online university program. At the time I was a dumb kid and thought the same thing the author of this article thought. 25 years later it didn't change the entire landscape of education, and neither will this. Whiz-bang technology might make some parts of education easier, but the distance aspect of online education is always going to make things more difficult.

    Also, like it or not there's a HUGE component of education that's simply driven by the name and reputation of the school you went to. How many people really want to proudly say they went and graduated from the $99 online school? As others have pointed out we already have a 2nd tier of education with Junior colleges. I certainly wouldn't want to start comparing the actual quality level of one vs. the other, but what I DO question is whether there's really a need for a 3rd tier of these Walmart schools (low low prices!).

  • Eleven courses (Score:3, Informative)

    by honestmonkey (819408) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @12:21PM (#29323841) Journal
    As near as I could see from their web site, they offer 11 courses, one or two of which were "pending". Might be a deal if you need some of those 11, but you aren't getting a degree that way.
    • After you take to your up to eleven courses, you can get credit for them at a total of four accredited institutions. I didn't look closely, but at least one of them is a junior college. So this "revolution" that Slashdot is reporting on, only is only relevant to a very small percent of the population.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SnoopJeDi (859765)

      A friend of mine recently decided to enter school, not having pursued any secondary education after high school. He asked for my help with prep for a math placement exam, not wanting to waste his money and time on remedial courses that would not have even counted as credits toward his degree. If this kind of 'corporate education' was more established at the time, he could have spent some money, worked his ass off, and placed higher on the placement test. Consider this small course list a 'beta' for this

  • An online education is an education of sorts, but it's not a college education unless you go to a college.

    Forget "who you meet" and "the contacts you'll make." Nobody gives a rat's ass about that garbage unless they're "damn glad to meetcha" econ scum headed to business school. Nobody I met in college has anything to do with my current career.

    The big problem with online higher education is that you can't have a decent frat party by yourself and the sex is really inferior.
  • Sounds fishy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SilverJets (131916) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:26PM (#29324275) Homepage

    From the StraighterLine web site:

    When you take a StraighterLine course you will select one of our Partner Colleges to award credit for the course. You can continue your major studies and pursue your degree through this college or transfer those credits to your college of choice.

    The important part they are leaving out is that the "college of your choice" does not have to accept the transfer credits.

  • Lets you take what you want for a change. Why yes, I'm pretty sure the sciences are the thing for me and I would have liked to take more things like chem and bio and not all that foreign languages you dirt bags shoved down my throat, never mind the humanities. Turns out being the worlds foremost expert in me I was pretty much spot on with that assessment before college. (Why yes, I am a little bitter about my college experience. Why do you ask?)

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