For current high school students, attending a traditional 4-year college is still the expected path. Given skyrocketing tuition and flat or declining wages, this may change in the next 5 to 10 years.
I recently heard Kevin Carey on NPR’s Fresh Air discussing his book The End of College. Carey, an education policy analyst, discusses how the hybrid university model arose in the US and how free online courses (MOOCs) such as Coursera, EdX and Udacity will disrupt the current system.
MOOCs are available anywhere at any time to anyone who has the adequate technology to access them. Not surprisingly, Coursera , EdX and Udacity all arose from top tier universities (Stanford, MIT and Harvard). For elite schools, MOOCs allow them to further burnish their brand; no one will turn down an actual slot at Harvard to take an online EdX course taught by a Harvard professor. However, for middle-ranking or smaller colleges, MOOCs may significantly affect their enrollments.
For $500, a student can take MIT’s series of seven computer science courses on Edx, upload all notes, tests and grades via an Open Badge system and receive a certificate attesting to the student’s performance. Furthermore, MOOCs can rank a student’s performance against the many thousands of other students who have taken the same course. Employers now have a quick and easy way to compare how students performed in specific classes related to the technical skills sought.
Compare that to a student paying upwards of $250,000 for a 4-year liberal arts degree at a “Not Very Famous but Decent” college or even a “Very Famous Ivy.” Cautionary tales abound about the underemployed liberal arts major with an Ivy League degree but no computer skills who then forks over an additional $20K to attend a coding bootcamp. Why not just get a technical certificate through a MOOC-based course instead?
Not only do employers use MOOCs to find top-tier employees, the Ivies use MOOCs to find global prodigies. Carey mentions the story of a high school student hailing from Ulan Bator (Inner Mongolia) who snags a full scholarship at MIT after scoring the highest in an MIT EdX free online computer course.
MOOCs aren’t the only online method to find global prodigies. Brilliant.org, a San Francisco company posts math and science problems and ranks a user’s ability against all others. According to founder Sue Khim’s 10-minute TED talk “Scouting for Intellect,” Brilliant’s mission is straightforward–”to find and nurture global STEM talents.”*
Welcome to DIY University.
*Author’s note: I signed up for Brilliant.org and the stalking algorithm kept pinging me with catchy reminders to “play” their math games. “Jennifer, rue or false?” Ugh. Typos in their headers. Couldn’t they find a prodigy to proofread? Everyone needs an editor. Even prodigies.