Remote Learning: Intriguing Options Emerge - InformationWeek

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Remote Learning: Intriguing Options Emerge

Despite various drawbacks, remote courses (both for credit and for pure learning) are becoming the emerging norm. Understand the options.

If I were obliged to choose industries that are susceptible to significant disruption in the next few years, I would have to point to education as being the most obvious and most important. In a generation and a half, education has gone from being an expense that most families bore manageably or with some difficulty to an extraordinary cost that can plunge students and their parents into deep, long-lasting debt. Rather than being the path of upward mobility that it was for generations, education has evolved into the principal barrier between the wealthy and the rest of us.

Education costs have risen far faster than inflation and can be accommodated mostly by parents who begin saving toward the expense the day their child is born. The current model cannot continue along its present trajectory. It is ripe for disruption, particularly in the programming field where developers are always partially self-taught, and demonstrated skill -- rather than coursework completion -- is the defining hiring criterion.

Several forward-looking universities have embraced this upcoming transition to greater self-education and begun making it possible to get college credit and degrees via remote study.  Other universities, such as MIT and Stanford, have adopted open courseware in which they make it possible for students to audit classes via videos of the class sessions or, in some cases, watching in real time. And for some classes, university credit can be obtained for this remote participation (graded homework and exams are part of the experience, of course).

I believe this model of remote courses taken for credit and paid for at much-lower tuition rates will in the next decade emerge as the default way of getting a college education. The traditional four-year on-campus experience will be viewed as a singular luxury. Computer science is likely to lead the way in this transition because, more than most disciplines, it does not require face-to-face communication (as would a degree in music performance, for example).

Read the rest of this article on Dr. Dobb's.

Prior to joining Dr. Dobb's Journal, Andrew Binstock worked as a technology analyst, as well as a columnist for SD Times, a reviewer for InfoWorld, and the editor of UNIX Review. Before that, he was a senior manager at Price Waterhouse. He began his career in software ... View Full Bio

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Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 6:59:49 PM
Re: MOOC vs. Old School
I wonder whether it would make sense to tie loans to specific industry job data.'s model is an interesting one. I'm still not sure how I feel about it.
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 3:10:37 PM
Re: MOOC vs. Old School
The answer to the student loan problem is to make these loans dischargeable under bankruptcy proceedings. At that point, lenders will begin to treat them like any other loan.

Forwarding someone $200,000 for med school makes sense. $200K to get a degree in literature or history? Not so much. This is not to say a degree in literature does not have value, only that actuarial logic dictates that one should get that degree on one's own dime, not borrowed money, based on expected future earning potential.
Andrew Binstock
Andrew Binstock,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 3:10:37 PM
No 4-year college?
Laurie: Quite agreed. The loss of the maturity gained by interaction with peers and teachers is a significant issue. Not sure quite how that will be addressed, although it wouldn't surprise me that if the distance learning experience becomes more common, ways of getting students together in person and/or with instructors will emerge. Essentially, re-creating the college experience with a remote component and a significantly reduced tuition. 
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 1:32:14 PM
MOOC vs. Old School
"The traditional four-year on-campus experience will be viewed as a singular luxury." I am all for MOOCs for some students and especially for adults to enhance skills without doing an entire graduate program. Interesting examples here in that regard, Andrew.But I find the idea that 4 years of undergrad college will be a luxury sad. College is an important social development time, not just a set of classes.
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 9:49:07 AM
Starting Young
Even before they get to university, younger students are being exposed to online learning. K-12 school districts offer virtual education, and my daughter's Central Florida school district requires all students to take/pass one online class in ninth grade. 
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