" This paper is a reaction to the increasing high cost of higher education and the resulting inaccessibility for the millions of potential learners now seeking opportunities for quality higher education opportunities. The paper examines the cost centers associated with campus-based and online education systems and then suggests that disaggregation may prove to be a cost-effective way to reduce tuition payments, while maintaining quality. The paper suggests that discount service models, now available to consumers in many industries may also be attractive in new models of higher education. The paper also briefly looks at the Open Educational Resources University initiative, a pilot, collaborative project attempting to test some of these innovations in a consortium of high quality, accredited public universities. Finally, we note both the disruptive characteristics of this model and commiserate opportunities for innovative providers of higher education."

 

Comment: The above abstract does not do justice to the richness of the paper. Its unique strength is that it looks at universities as providers of a service to students and society at large, notes that the costs of this service continue to rise, and wonders whether there may be a 'low cost, no frills' alternative way of providing this service (think low-cost airlines). First, it pleads to decouple research from teaching, research being a major cost factor. Then it pleads to replace the traditional offline teacher-student interaction by student-content (OERs) or student-student interactions (the Anderson equivalence theorem, which in mathematical terms should rather be termed a conjecture, holds that deep learning can already be sustained if only one of the three interaction types is well cared for). Of course, open universities, such as the Anderson and McGreal's own Athabasca university, have experimented with this long since. The authors conclude that "If both public campuses ['regular' universities] and online systems [open universities] do not adapt and move to exploit these network affordances, then it leaves a tremendous opportunity that can (and will) be filled by private, for profit entrepreneurs". And this is of course where the MOOC phenomenon comes in, which encompasses both experiments of universities (the cMOOC but also edX) and of (venture capitalist supported) entrepreneurs (Coursera, Udacity). Highly recommended! (peter sloep, @pbsloep) 


Via Peter B. Sloep