The End of Universities
There has been an increasing interest for massive open online courses, or so called MOOCs. They enable people all over the world to enjoy previously inaccessible levels of higher education. Registration is free; everything you need is an internet connection and e-mail address. Upon successfully completing a course a certificate is awarded. Does the growth in MOOCs indicate a revolution in higher education?
A significant rise in costs of US-education has occurred in recent decades. These costs have increased with a multifold of the inflation rate and tuition has risen from 23% of median annual earnings in 2001 to 38% in 2010 (The Economist, 2012). Student debt has risen to $1 trillion and universities are trying to attract the best and brightest – professors and students alike – with financing their investments by ever increasing debt. With governments cutting down on education budgets the situation seems unsustainable. Are students willing to bear these increasing costs of a degree, an investment with an ever decreasing ROI?
MOOCs might give the answer as the developments as stated above provide a fruitful environment for the innovation in online education, often referred to as disruptive (Forbes, New York Times, Wired). Online platforms such as Coursera or edX give access to courses ranging from physics to business strategy, provided by top institutions such as Oxford, Harvard and MIT. These established names are on board because they recognize the importance of the new development in education. Three characteristics are fundamental to MOOCs. The online platform enables a scale at which classes can be taught which is impossible in the conventional ‘Socratic’ education system. Furthermore, students are able to tailor programs to their needs by selecting specific courses creating a unique curriculum. This customization can include courses of multiple universities which means a shift of bargaining power to the student. Lastly, MOOCs create an environment for continuous learning in a facilitated network. It becomes easier to combine studying with working creating more demand for just-in-time, on the job courses (Wired, 2013).
The developments of MOOCs facilitating easy accessible, customizable and continuous learning opportunities will have its impact on the education system. The only obstacle is the recognition of the obtained certificates by employers. It will take some time but classes as we know them will become a relic of the past.