There’s an encouraging trend developing: reportage on the revolution happening in education is moving further away from the fringe and toward a more mainstream audience. In the last few weeks, the Washington Post has asked, “Do college professors work hard enough?”, which, while still sensational, would have sounded like blasphemy a year or two ago. The Wall Street Journal is using words like “revolutionary” to describe what traditional-university refugees like Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun are doing. More below.
- In addition to a swipe about “old-school alumni who have gotten too cozy in their club chairs,” the WSJ recently chimed in on the growth of Kahn Academy, developments in ex-Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity experiments, and the launch of TEDed. Some “glitches” in this sea change are mentioned, including a online dropout rates, complaints from users about speed, and issues surrounding accreditation. But I’d say that it won’t be long before speed is a non-issue. I think the other two “glitches,” though, are interrelated: dropping out is easier if you think that third parties (like employers) don’t value educational experiences that aren’t officially accredited. How to change that is the big question.
- The “Do professors work hard enough?” question is obviously a sensitive one, but recently the Washington Post asked it anyway. It’s sensitive because there are clearly plenty of incredibly gifted teachers for whom the answer to that question would be a very loud Yes. It’s necessary to ask anyway because there’d be some for whom the answer would be No, and because the tuition and fees to attend traditional universities continue to rise—alongside a debt now at $1 trillion—while the quality of education continues to stagnate and decline.
- “[A] prudent strategy favors accumulating real accomplishments — revenues earned, clients transformed, or lives changed — in spite of any affiliations you may have.” HBR wasn’t writing of education exclusively, but, in any case, it’s rather provocative coming from inside one of the most traditionally prestigious institutions in the world. The article highlights the kinds of platforms—like Codeacademy and Kaggle—that may eventually outpace diplomas as markers of legitimate qualification.