The Coming Education Revolution

by on August 7, 2011 at 7:35 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

From Metafilter:

Stanford’s ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ course will be offered free to anyone online this fall. The course will be taught by SebastianThrun (Stanford) and PeterNorvig (Google, Director of Research), who expect to deal with the historically large course size using tools like Google Moderator.

There will two 75 min lectures per week, weekly graded homework assignments and quizzes, and the course is expected to require roughly 10 hours per week. Over 10,000 students have already signed up.

In 2003, I argued that professors were becoming obsolete, giving a 10 to 20 year time for a big move to online education. Later, I pointed out that the market was moving towards superstar teachers, who teach hundreds at a time or even thousands online. Today, we have the Khan Academy, a huge increase in online education, electronic textbooks and peer grading systems and highly successful superstar teachers with Michael Sandel and his popular course Justice, serving as example number one.

One of the last remaining items holding back online education is a credible system to credential and compare student achievement across universities. Arnold Kling has that covered with a new business model.

For superstars and strong researchers, life in the ivory tower remains good. But for most teachers the cushy life is gone; tenure is just a dream for a majority of university teachers, salaries are low and teaching requirements have risen.

As in other fields what we are seeing is an increase in teaching inequality, at the top are high-salary superstars surrounded by apprentices who work long hours at low pay for a lottery ticket that for most will not payoff and at the bottom are lots of mid-skill adjuncts who do the drudge work of teaching remedial English and math.

Addendum: Tim Worstall points to the UK’s University of London as a model for the future.

Tim Worstall August 7, 2011 at 8:17 am

You can get an economics degree from the London School of Economics online for £4,500. No, not per year, that’s the entire fees for the entire degree. I agree, education is the next sector that’s going to be turned over by the internet.

dearieme August 7, 2011 at 8:56 am

How soon before Oxford specifies that as an entry requirement for PPE?

Susan Gilbert August 8, 2011 at 9:42 am

Do we even need superstar “teachers” for graduate programs? Or, can the online content coupled with student motivation, deliver the same results in terms of student learning? My challenge, as Dean of an online business school, is not to recruit superstar faculty, but to anticipate what new content is needed and to foster a sense of community. Susan Gilbert, Thomas Edison State College

Bill August 7, 2011 at 8:22 am

Yep. But, the value of some graduate degee programs, such as business, is in the network you establish from closely working with each other and going to parties.

Ken Rhodes August 7, 2011 at 8:35 am

I agree with Bill to some extent, but choice of words, as is often the case, is critical.

I’d say “but *one* of the values of graduate programs is …” If you are contemplating the on-line option, you should be weighing the cost-benefit tradeoff rather than excluding one option or the other.

Anon August 7, 2011 at 8:32 am

See also: “Moody’s Sounds the Alarm on Student Borrowing”, http://reason.com/archives/2011/08/05/moodys-sounds-the-alarm-on-stu

Slocum August 7, 2011 at 9:01 am

As I said in 2009, one of the last remaining items holding back online education is a credible system to credential and compare student achievement across universities. Arnold Kling has that covered with a new business model.

I’ve pondering ideas along this line, and something like this seems to be the critical element. Delivering the instruction is easy — breaking the credentialing cartel is much harder. One additional idea I had was for an ‘A means A’ type of organization is to actually pay some students from highly regarded universities to take the tests as a way of providing benchmarks. I wouldn’t expect Universities to pay for this testing, I’d expect students to do so as a way of burnishing credentials from run-of-the-mill schools — so probably starting with lower-tier university grads and working up the food chain as more employers come to demand the scores. And for VC to launch such an endeavor? Maybe Peter Theil would be interested.

Jones* August 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

Alex, do not use phrases like “as I said” because people may be led to believe that you are in the business of self-aggrandizement.

Bill August 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

Or, we might bein singing the lyrics to the song:

“You’re so vain,
You’re so vain,
You probably think this song is about you…”

But, he was really talking about the superstar Paul Krugman.

Bill August 7, 2011 at 10:02 am

Begin, not bein..damn ipad

Andrew' August 8, 2011 at 10:44 am

Ummm…professors ARE in the business of self-aggrandizement, in every sense of the phrase.

Sam August 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm

He seems to have removed the “As I said.” I kind of feel bad for Alex. He puts more effort into his posts because he knows people come here for TC, and then he gets whipped over a rhetorical nitpick.

John Thacker August 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

So, the obvious question is if we’re moving towards a “superstar teachers teach lots of students at once with peer grading overcoming the need for teaching assistants” (finally overturning Baumol’s cost disease for education), do you expect the existing claimed trend of “teaching requirements have risen” to go away?

Or do you expect that the drudge work remedial courses will always require in-person teachers, so what will happen is that teaching requirements will continue to rise, but only in the less interesting courses?

John Thacker August 7, 2011 at 9:20 am

I simply find it a little bit jarring that your post combines two ideas, one which implies a lower demand for teaching by university faculty (thanks to increasing productivity), together with a claim that demand for teaching by university faculty has increased.

Finch August 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

I also though this was an interesting question.

I note that MIT’s courses have been available online in some form, for a while, without radically changing anything. Admittedly, the implementation is poor.

joan August 7, 2011 at 9:28 am

If listening to a lecture for 75 min a week was sufficient to learn a subject, the technology has been available ever since the invention of talky movies nearly a hundred years ago and decades ago educational TV offered classes on many subjects and and neither of these made attending college obsolete.

bbartlog August 7, 2011 at 9:38 am

You have a point, but it’s also true that automated testing and feedback kind of close the loop. With the technologies you mention, there is no way for a student to demonstrate (or a certifier to confirm) that the material has actually been learned; now, that problem has been mostly resolved. However, I think that your examples do show that the *availability* of such materials is not nearly as much of a bottleneck to human capital improvement as simply the will, interest, and intelligence required to learn them. Even before TV there were public libraries (Carnegie also saw the education of the working man as important), but while the public used them they certainly weren’t mobbed by people looking to improve their technical knowledge.

Hyena August 7, 2011 at 10:04 am

Because, you know, wielding an answer key requires the kind of skill and bravery we’ve only discovered since Web 2.0.

Dan Weber August 8, 2011 at 11:28 am

but it’s also true that automated testing and feedback kind of close the loop

I’m amazed that they are grading people’s work for free. It’s one thing to hear about a subject; it’s another to have an expert in the subject look over your work and tell you what’s right and what’s wrong.

hamilton August 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

And yet I don’t see GMU ceasing its PhD program despite the coming shift. As your students aren’t among the superstars, wouldn’t you be doing them a favor by keeping them out of academia? If you’re correct (and that seems feasible), then most of the types of teaching jobs that Mason students get are going away quite soon. So your own students are being set up for obsolescence by the current program.

DK August 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm

So your own students are being set up for obsolescence by the current program.

But that’s OK – they exist to justify the existence of current GMU faculty.

DCordeiro August 7, 2011 at 9:43 am

Stanford has a fully accredited Online High School with students from all over the world. One of its many benefits is the ability for students to take university courses (not just APs) in areas where they are more advanced.

http://epgy.stanford.edu/ohs

They address the social networking issue electronically and through a 2 week camp at the Stanford campus each summer. This is more face to face contact than many of us have with our business colleagues today.

bbartlog August 7, 2011 at 9:45 am

I’m a little puzzled by the notion of a ‘superstar teacher’ teaching 10,000 students at once. I think we have to separate the tasks of ‘lecturing’ (where an excellent lecturer can make the material clear and interesting for any number of people) and individual explaining, where someone can actually answer specific questions from a student. I think that learning from lectures only will favor the better students. If we imagine that the marginal student is one who would benefit from having questions answered and details explained using multiple (somewhat repetitive) examples, then he’s not going to do so well absent individualized attention. Of course AI can solve that problem too, but it takes more than putting excellent lectures online.

thehova August 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

For the humanities, it’s financially becoming a better option to teach high school than higher ed.

Yet, it still seems like the “talent” is still pursuing a career in higher ed. What a twisted system.

Bill August 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

Forget about the lecturer as a real person.

It will be a cartoon character with the voice Professor Huntsman of that film classic of the Harvard student who slept with the profs daughter.

Not so far from the truth.

Neighbor in the next block is working on animations for teaching physical therapy. Comes with interactive dummy.

DCordeiro August 7, 2011 at 10:25 am

Another important online school is the Art of Problem Solving.

http://www.artofproblemsolving.com

Their content is far more rigorous than anything in the standard curriculum. While they offer their own graded courses they also prepare many students to perform well on the AMC contests and in international olympiads.

These contests are a third party validation of a certain kind of mathematical ability and serve to differentiate at the very highest end of the performance spectrum. Many elite science programs who see hundreds of 800 math SAT scores require AMC results to select candidates.

NPW August 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

Chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering require labs. Computer simulations are a poor substitute. Science based eduation will still need physical locations.
Lectures are easily outsourced for two reasons. Lectures are for learning how to pass the class, whereas individual effort, peer group, and one-on-one assitance are for learning the material. Second, most superstar professors don’t actually teach in the first place. They do research, and consider students an annoyance that comes with the job.

Finch August 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm

How good can a lecturer possibly be? At the high end, it’s the labs, problem sets, and tests that define a class.

John August 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I learned almost nothing from my physics, chem, bio, or engineering labs that I also didn’t already know or later learn in class. I think everything I did learn was how to kill a frog, that preserving fluids stink, there’s some organic chem reaction that doesn’t work when it’s humid out, and that labs that penalize you for not getting any product are surprisingly like real life. All-in-all I don’t think I would have suffered had I never taken them.

CBBB August 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I’m inclined to agree here – do people really learn much from these labs? I guess they learn how to go about doing lab procedures but most of the time whatever was done in the lab is usually explained later on. The labs always seem like just a hoop to jump through rather then an actual important step in the learning process.

lnm August 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm

A lot of the lower level labs are pretty worthless and simply confirm what you already know/could find from a simple equation (carts roll down hill?!? they accelerate fast down steeper hills?!? who knew?!?). However, upper level labs can be invaluable. For example, I couldn’t imagine an analog electronics class without one. Otherwise you’d never get a feel for the failure modes, unintended uses, limitations, etc. of the devices you work with. Some labs really are worthwhile.

Finch August 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I suppose I’d think that problem sets and tests are closer to the actual working environment for a new engineer. The number of engineers that regularly visit a shop floor or prototype something with their own hands is falling fast. It’s much more common in school than in the real world. It’s also deceptive in that it makes people think engineering is going to be more fun, and more about making stuff, than it is about managing software and people.

mrrunangun August 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm

The value of a lab for a given learner may depend on the degree of abstract learning she is capable of applying and the nature of the task. I doubt that my student colleagues on average could have mastered metal shop, wood shop, or auto shop without the concrete learning that labs give you. Chilton’s is great, but not necessarily sufficient.

A higher order task such as – say heart surgery, similarly requires repetitive physical manipulation of the actual object under supervision to master. Abstract knowledge of the craft being necessary, but hardly sufficient.

100 level science labs teach little but lab technique which is helpful to know in more advanced scientific or engineering research, especially if you will be supervising technical work. Perhaps less so if you will be teaching lower level science. In lower level courses I learned more from my lab partners than from the so-called lab instructors.

Adrian August 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

Agree with NPW’s comment. Besides, if ideas are being offered by a few ‘superstars’ the sources for innovation shrink. Outsiders are needed; their ideas enrich the process by which knowledge is generated.

Tom West August 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

As I said about Alex’s original article, I think there’s going to be enormous potential to start and then enormous disappointment shortly after. I’d guess that the bottom 75% of students *cannot* put in the effort to learn unless there’s a real-live human being making the effort to teach. It seems to be human nature (or at least the nature of young people).

That’s not to say that online learning won’t be valuable to a large number of students, just that it attempts to have it replace main-stream teaching will fail.

Finch August 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

This would be great information for future hiring decisions.

Successfully completing unsupervised learning might be a good indication that you’ll do well at work when no-one is watching you.

Tom West August 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I’d agree, sort of. I suspect the bright, self-disciplined and self-motivated students are all priced accordingly anyway. It’s the large majority of the not particularly disciplined, motivated or bright (i.e. most of us) that I think require a live teacher in order to make the effort. [Note: I do not consider this a character flaw – it is our nature.]

Also remember that most students in high school and university are there because… well, because everybody has told them they’re supposed to be there. They’re not there because of a particular love of learning.

In a business that pays above the “I’m not being paid enough to learn” line (a phrase that a youngster taught me a decade ago… Talk about culture shock on my part), the employee presumably has internal motivation to learn on their own.

dave August 7, 2011 at 10:47 am

My company is just dying to hire those U of Phoenix Online grads.

Face it, brick and mortar places will always be considered the top institutions.

Anon August 7, 2011 at 11:02 am

Not if your average broke smart person is learning on his own, or outside the top institutions.

Phoenix Online signals low class education and low motivation. After all, anyone can get student loans, and Harvard Extension School is almost the same price as Phoenix. If the education bubble pops, or if people can demonstrate skill and credentials by other means, especially in technology areas, your preference falls apart. Even now, people recognize that attending a top institution may just indicate wealth and higher culture, not intelligence or ability.

Face it, I’m right.

JPR August 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

The humanities can survive if it adapts it’s model. Sandel’s lectures can’t provide students with a forum for practicing their ability to craft arguments off-the-cuff in an effort to persuade and negotiate with peers, and until we all live in a purely rational, conflict-free society, persuasion and negotiation will remain our means of resolving conflicts.

Before the modern era, the ‘humanities’ were structured around grammar, rhetoric, and logic, and were designed to teach young (men, of course) to persuade and negotiate. Our current model is adapted from the 19th century German lecture-seminar system. The Sandel-method could perhaps be combined with online seminars, in which students would make efforts, for example, to persuade their peers that bad economics and not exceptional legal measures were the driving force in the collapse of the Roman Republic, or that the Austrian school has a stronger moral foundation than Keynesian economics. But it still won’t be able to full recreate the situation of sitting in a room with your peers and a smarter moderator, attempting to develop consistent and coherent arguments ex tempore. That skill matters – I lived with a brilliant political scientist who was superb with arguments but terrible at persuasion, simply because he did not know how to interact with others.

Can anyone think of a way to develop those skills online? Or are we heading to a future with so little peer-to-peer interaction that those skills will be outmoded?

Jody August 7, 2011 at 11:42 am

Can anyone think of a way to develop those skills online?

Blog debates with votes and moderator feedback.

Webcam debates (ala talking heads) could partially address spoken, in-person debates.

Bill August 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

Live web debates
With Avatars
And
Weapons

thehova August 7, 2011 at 11:51 am

definitely a good point.

Ideally, we need to vastly improve our secondary education system and incorporate it with the stuff you noted above.

The reality of the situation right now is that most students don’t receive a good secondary school education in the US and need 4 years of college to fill in the gaps.

Andrew Alexander August 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Blogs, class forums, webcam-based “debates”—none of those are really the same as sitting around a table having a conversation. And isn’t that what we want, ultimately? One of the things that has gotten muddled on MR is the distinction between education as training in technical skills, and education as gaining a more profound understanding of a subject, or of the world. The latter is fuzzy and vague and hard to quantify and not directly profitable, so that may be why it gets ignored.

Our ability to train people in skills will improve with technology, and this may affect the bulk of American schools—but it’s hard to see it making much of a positive effect, or an effect at all, on the Ivy-caliber schools at the far right of the distribution. So I can listen to some charismatic lecturer expound on James Joyce? So what? (“His vocal intonations are perfect—he must be completely right!”) So I can scribble down flashcards and study them for the multiple-choice, computer-scored test on Portrait of an Artist?

I would argue that this is true of not just humanities, but sciences as well. One of the best classes I took as a science major at my Ivy-caliber school was a freshman honors molecular biology class, structured as a journal club. Each week we had to read a recent paper put out by a biochem/molecular biology lab in the university, and present it to the professor—the point being not to understand it well enough to know what the authors did (a challenging enough task for 18-year-olds), but to understand it well enough to know what the authors //did wrong//.

The faster we can get students not just to learn facts about a subject, but actually to act as practitioners of that subject do, the better. (In a sort of synthesis of Plato, John Dewey, and Mortimer Adler.)

The point is not developing the ability to argue extemporaneously; the point is that only by using such dialectic will we approach something like a real education.

Jody August 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm

none of those are really the same as sitting around a table having a conversation

You rarely displace existing an entrenched product or service with something that is exactly the same as what came before or that is a strict Pareto improvement over what came before.

In many dimensions a horse is superior to a car (companionship, easier procurement of “fuel”, suitability of more varied terrains, could “drive” you home while you slept), yet cars displaced horses because they excelled in many other dimensions.

In this case I think online teaching dramatically lowers costs, increases access, and increases potential returns to honing your educational craft. While in-person education will never fully go away (we still ride horses!), I expect the preponderance of education to shift online.

As a specific example of how world is moving away from a model where debates and persuasion primarily occur in-person, I, for one, now have most of my argumentative / persuasive discussions online these days. Similarly, at a minimum, you’ve now engaged in at least one online debate, but I bet it’s much more (see http://xkcd.com/386/ that neatly captures the emerging debate model)

JPR August 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I’m not sure that we are moving away from the in-person model as much as developing a parallel model. My point is simply that we need people who are sufficiently capable in both environments, so that we don’t end up with people like Andrew envisions – empty of content but psychologically persuasive because of attractiveness, voice, tone, etc – but also so that we don’t end up with that guy in the xkcd comic (in fact, I think the humor of that comic points to a potential outcome if we push for only one of these models). I want an educational system that can produce citizens who are capable of functioning in multiple social-intellectual environments…

Perhaps I should have opted for a PhD in Ed, rather than Classics.

Troy Camplin August 7, 2011 at 8:44 pm

A Ph.D. in Ed is like having a Ph.D. in alchemy. It’s worthless and teaches you about as much about the real world. You got the right one.

Joshua August 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

I think, based on my experience, there is tremendous network effects to online education.

Knowing someone who succeeded in A: Getting a degree online and B: Subsequently getting a job is a tremendous encouragement to pursue a similar path. At least, for a friend of mine and his younger sister. Nevertheless…

mw August 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Not to be too elitist, but I’ve always thought it was trivial to learn any humanities, social science, basic science etc from a textbook. I agree that perhaps *lectures* are obsolete. But in sharp contrast to “regular” subjects, I’ve never (not once) had a textbook good enough to understand all the nuances of complicated engineering mathematics without having someone brilliant to ask simple questions and help work through problems along the way. Maybe that means I’m not ready for the “online education” revolution, but then I’d strongly suspect a lot of people probably aren’t. Unless of course we’re going to continue down our present path of having fewer and fewer students go into engineering, where our economy has the most demand, while we leave that to talented Indian and Chinese immigrants, in which case I’d say sure we’re set for online-only.

JLD August 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I’ve pondering ideas along this line, and something like this seems to be the critical element

David Mershon August 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I’d like to see university educations find a way to realize productivity gains, but this discussion seems to be based on an entirely wrongheaded idea – that universities are fundamentally broken. The last time I checked, the wage premium for college graduates was still something like 90% of earnings over a lifetimes and unemployment for college graduates was drastically lower than the rest of the population. I believe for advanced and professional degrees it is now hovering around 2%. College professors are poorly paid for the same reason that artists are poorly paid – being a professor is a personally rewarding job. There are more people who would like to be a professor than there places to put them, thus high supply and low demand.

NPW August 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

College professors are not poorly paid. In fact they are some of the most highly paid public workers, at least here in Maryland.

http://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2011/06/01/doctors-teachers-top-list-of.html?appSession=931114785546460&RecordID=&PageID=2&PrevPageID=&cpipage=11&CPISortType=&CPIorderBy=

thehova August 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm

The superstar professors are paid very well. No one is denying that.

DK August 7, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Then all professors are superstars. The median for a full professor is probably around 100K:
http://chronicle.com/article/Faculty-Salaries-at-More-Than/127041/

E.g., at doctoral institutions (and there are zillions of them), practically every full professors gets above $100K. 100K is twice the median *household income* in the country – which fully qualifies for “very well”.

Andrew' August 8, 2011 at 10:13 am

They generally work at least 60 hours per week. Now, of course, they work this long because the nature of research is low productivity. There is a lot of competition because the positions are limited, but relatively few people who can actually perform. So, it’s not a straight forward answer.

JordanT August 8, 2011 at 4:25 pm

That’s the median for a full professor, but a full professor has tenure. Very few are debating that full professors aren’t well paid. However, most of the lecturers at a big public college will be adjunct professors, who are as a rule poorly paid, have no tenure and will likely never receive tenure. The reason why colleges have been able to do this, is because there are far more Ph.Ds being created than professor positions for them.

I’m not saying it’s bad or wrong, but focusing solely on full professors does not give you an idea of how much college professors are currently paid.

Andrew' August 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I’d have to think about what you are saying, maybe we are saying the same thing, but the main distinction between full and not full professor is where they decide to draw the cutoff line. The full professors capture the winnings from the non-full professors.

thehova August 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Prestige is a major factor. The status of a college professor is simply higher than a K-12 teacher even though it’s not reflected in wages (or perhaps because of it).

Parents want to see their kids become professors instead of K-12 teachers. That’s ingrained in kids from an early age.

Tangurena August 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm

>College professors are poorly paid…

This totally depends on the field/department. In the 90s, I worked part time at one of the state universities (which was sarcastically called “find another university” by the students and staff), which had an order of magnitude difference in salaries between the highest (business) and lowest (English and Foreign languages) paid departments. The engineering professors were paid about average for engineers, while the lowest paid tenure-track foreign language instructors (hired full-time and not adjuncts) were getting paid in the low $20ks.

This reflects market conditions; when the salaries stay too low, even tenured professors will leave for the money. This happened when several computer and electrical engineering professors were lured away by Microsoft for quite large raises. And that department suffered from what one would call “the dead sea effect”. In the case of the foreign language department, there was no reason to pay them large sums as there was really no place for them to depart to seek higher wages elsewhere.

http://brucefwebster.com/2008/04/11/the-wetware-crisis-the-dead-sea-effect/

David Mershon August 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I should add that I am a full time graduate student, and I have found open courseware extremely useful both as a continuing student and when I’ve been out of university and employed full time. I also probably got more out of watching “Justice” online than I did taking a philosophy class during my undergrad degree. I’m just not convinced that this stuff is benefitting anyone who does not already have some level of higher education.

DK August 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm

for most teachers the cushy life is gone; tenure is just a dream for a majority of university teachers, salaries are low and teaching requirements have risen.

Not even close. It has become slightly less cushy, that’s all. Contrary to what you write, the vast majority of university teachers (less not include the TAs here) in the USA have tenures. Salaries are quite obviously still very good as evidenced by 1) extreme competion for such positions, 2) practically zero quit rate.

Troy Camplin August 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm

In many fields, like the humanities, salaries are quite low in universities, even for tenure track (they do get better with tenure, of course). The reason for this is that there is extreme competition for such positions, which drives down prices (as any economist knows). Why the extreme competition? Well, humanities people don’t want to work, per se, but are interested in a scholarly life, of which teaching is a part. The driving factor for such people is not money, but an ability to do the kind of work they want. Many spend years in the adjunct circuit (which is completely exploitative — which is “ironic” since they are run by mostly leftist administrators who otherwise rail against exploitation of the workers) in the vain hope that they will get a full time position if they get enough teaching years under their belt (nobody tells them it is numbers of publications, not number of years teaching that matters). There is a practically zero quit rate because it is the job academics dream of getting, and no idiot would quit a job it is practically impossible to get fired from.

conrad barski August 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Hi, I’m organizing a DC study group for the ai course.

Email me at lisperati@gmail.com if interested.

(I am the author of the book “Land of Lisp” btw, so I take ai seriously.)

Nick August 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm

It sounds like teaching “Introduction to AI” is very similar to teaching your outsourced replacement how to do the job you just got laid off from.

Bill August 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm

There’s an upside. Before they laid you off, they asked you to prepare the syllabus. Later you can hire yourself out as a Mr. Chips tutor to the wealthy student, and maybe even write, sorry, edit his term paper.

k August 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

economists…predictions….

Bill August 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Whether an online or in person school, I want to know the civil engineering school of the guy who built the leaning building in this post.

Tangurena August 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I’m one of the folks who signed up for this course. The university I’m currently attending is nowhere near a top-tier state university. While this school does teach an AI course, they only do so in alternate years and at a time of day when only non-working/unemployed students can take it. The cost, with in-state tuition, including books, would run about $1500.

I’m currently a programmer, so this is an interesting subject to me (although outside of the typical business applications I get hired to develop/maintain). The degree I’m working towards is in a totally different field as age discrimination in IT is getting harder to overcome.

RM August 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I have 2 problems with online education.

1) I am not convinced that the vast majority of 18 – 21 year olds have the capacity to sit through an online lecture without running to the kitchen for a coke, text messaging, IMing, or surfing the net. Until we figure out what are the learning outcomes for for online vs. traditional education, I would caution against putting our eggs in the online edu. basket.

On a related note, think of all the webinars you plan to attend or attended. Many planned webinars are never attended; there is always something more important to do. And when, you do attend one, chances are that you are working on something else, sure of the fact that you will pay attention when something important is said. That is exactly the way a 20-year old thinks.

2) For those who can afford it, they will always send their kids to the top 50 universities in the country for primary learning, opportunities to walk into a professor’s office, top-notch labs, networks, etc. The other 95 percent of the student body will be subject to canned lectures and no opportunity to ask questions. Maybe they can Skype in later for a group tutorial, but try asking the 20-year old to do so, when he just spent 3 hours fidgeting through a one-hour and who is itching to in an additional hour at Home Depot so that he can buy an I-phone.

We run the risk of creating a two-tier education system, where the disadvantaged will lose.

Stanford’s online course (and the high-quality student body it will attract), is the exception not the rule.

Simon August 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I’m sorry, but I have to call Tim Worstall up here. I’m a UK graduate of two Uni of London universities, LSE being one of them. Firstly, you cannot get an economics degree from LSE for £4,500. As of this year, it’s £8,500 per year, or £25,500 in total. He’s referring to the Uni of London’s online course, which is partly taught by LSE faculty, but which has barely any recognition. Saying you went to the LSE when you actually got your course online is like saying you went to Oxford, when you were at Oxford Brookes.

Secondly, the Uni of London model is one for the new century? Really? The last decade of UoL has been marked by the most prestigious Colleges trying to leave as quickly as they can, first UCL in 2005 and then Imperial’s flight in 2007. These days if you write ‘University of London’ on your resume, its generally taken as the applicant attempting to obscure the fact he didn’t go to one of the better Universities in the city. This is hardly a model worth replicating.

Lastly, if anything the UK is going backwards in terms of higher education. Student fees have nearly trebled in one year, while the value of a degree has been debased by the proliferation of faux degrees (BA International Football Management, anyone?). We’re not quite as bad as the US system where students either spend half their time applying for obscure scholarships or have parents wealthy enough not to worry about it, but we’re getting there.

Troy Camplin August 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm

A few months ago my idea about free-lance professors: http://www.popecenter.org/commentaries/article.html?id=2512 seemed a pretty radical idea. Now it just seems timely. I believe that solving credentialing — which could be solved by adopting a free market in credentialing — would solve the problems inherent in the changes in higher education, where changes are coming fast and furious. Education will become a more efficient spontaneous order if and when credentialing is freed.

ron August 7, 2011 at 8:34 pm

If these kinds of transformations succeed at the college level, will they move on to high schools? Or are they immune to the internet.

mkt August 8, 2011 at 4:22 am

I don’t think they will move on to high schools for the same reason that I don’t think they will replace bricks-and-mortar colleges: as others have mentioned, online education works well for for the bright and highly motivated, which most 18-year olds are not, let alone most 15-year olds.

To put it another way, if online education is so great, why don’t those of you with 6-year old children plop them in front of a computer instead of sending them to first grade?

It is true that online education is an important new technology which is having a larger impact on higher education, one which will continue to grow.

But it might be time for a Julian Simon-style bet: I think that 10 years from now there will be MORE students taking bricks-and-mortar classes, not fewer. Simply due to ever-increasing demand for education. Online education will grow much faster than bricks-and-mortar, but will not replace it.
(There’ll have to some fine-tuning to do the accounting: do pet owners at a dog obedience school count? Do hybrid classes with both a classroom and online component count as bricks-and-mortar, or online? Yes to all three.)

Tangurena August 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Ron, I don’t think so. Most college students are there because they want to be there. Most high school students are there because they have to be there. That difference makes all the world in whether someone will do well (or not) in school.

While online education can work for motivated students, it takes a different type of motivation to succeed at. I’m working on bachelor’s degree #3, and for some subjects, online courses are “easy” while others require more discipline than I normally have. Many of the cues you would have in class (“hey, what did you think of that homework problem” or the teacher saying “quiz next period”) are absent in online classes, so one has to be good at setting up (and sticking to) task lists. This is not something that kids are good at, and frankly, neither are a lot of adults.

My advice is to let those who can learn this way, do so. Not everyone can, and while forcing everyone into this mold will be far cheaper for school boards, but incredibly terrible for most learners.

TH August 8, 2011 at 1:17 am

Unfortunately, as the demand for professors decreases and the supply for professors increases, the quantity of professors will remain the same, but the price of professors will decrease. If the price decreases and professors are expected to put in the same amount of hours and work (or possibly even more, as they are teaching hundreds to thousands of students at a time), they will be less motivated to put their full one hundred percent into their job. Ultimately, something else may have to occur in order to ensure that professors are motivated to work; perhaps this will result in a payment method other than piece price. Due to creative destruction, a term that was popularized by Joseph Schumpeter, the evolution that occurs within the classroom will transform the economy of teaching. Competition will increase and those who cannot compete will turn to another market.

Steven Kopits August 8, 2011 at 7:52 am

Thrun is Google’s autonomous vehicle guru.

efk August 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

“Stanford’s ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ course will be offered free to anyone online this fall. . . . Over 10,000 students have already signed up.”

Meanwhile, the publisher of the required textbook is laughing all the way to the bank. Neat trick!

BV August 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Posts like this is why I read MR daily. Thanks!

Mike August 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm

You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library

Openworld August 8, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Here are three other converging opportunities that will disrupt incumbents –

1) Microvouchers to widen grassroots access to online learning and certification (http://is.gd/microscholarships )

2) Student-owned learning ventures (http://is.gd/kidsown )

3) Results-linked private learning contracts (http://is.gd/altfunding )

4) “Microsociety Schools” with student-created rules and market ventures.

We’re living in interesting times…

Best,

Mark Frazier
http://MiiU.org/wiki/openworld
@openworld @peerlearning

Openworld August 8, 2011 at 7:26 pm

As you may have guessed from my arithmetic error in the previous post, I’m a public school (K12) graduate …

An overview of Microsociety Schools in the earlier comment is at http://is.gd/microsocietyschools .

Best,

Mark
@openworld

RandomReal[] August 9, 2011 at 10:24 am

I teach for free; they pay me to grade.

Paul Johnson August 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Depends on the subject does it not? I can imagine basic accounting or basic math being taught this way. How about aircraft engine maintenance taught totally online – want to fly on that airline? Nursing? A medical student who never had to examine a live patient?

Gurugram August 12, 2011 at 2:01 am

MBA
course curriculum develops international perspective on business competitiveness. Therefore students are prepared for roles as globally-oriented managers. It also develops skills in working with international teams and networks. Teaching methods includes theoretical studies and experience sharing as well as mentoring by practicing managers from leading Indian and International compnies and also includes classroom interaction and case study discussions.

Mahendra kumar August 17, 2011 at 3:03 am

first impression is the last impression. that fact is right but some conditions ti’s wrong.

MTECH COMPUTER

Kate Arline August 23, 2011 at 6:54 pm

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