I Have Seen the Future and It’s Wild, or
Study In our Lovely Village Campus:
Bring Your Own Courses
It’s called “Online Learning,” and twelve million people are doing it right now. Yet it’s still like the Internet before Google, Facebook, or Twitter. At COURSERA anyone anywhere can take courses at Princeton, Stamford, Michigan U, or U. Penn. Free! (I’m trying to decide between Introduction to Finance and Social Network Analysis) Soon every college will be online. NY Times columnist David Brooks, called it a “campus tsunami,” but tsunamis recede, while online learning won’t, and is just getting started.
Granted that some learning needs face-to-face. President James Garfield said, “The best college is Mark Hopkins [his teacher] on one end of a log and a student on the other.” And some subjects can’t be learned online: sports, physical education, musical instruments, acting, mime, flying airplanes, orthodontics, doing heart surgery, and dancing.
Taking daily dance class is the only way to become a dancer, and fifty years ago, no one serious about dancing went to college. So colleges started offering dance majors with daily classes and now turn out professional calibre dancers with degrees. With online learning, schools like Alvin Ailey, SAB, and Martha Graham, adding academic mentors, will be able to offer complete educations, degrees to follow. And there’s more.
At $100,000 for a degree at a state school, $250,000 for prestige schools, plus shrinking financial aid and rising student loan interest rates, higher education is being priced out of the market. The mini or micro college with curriculum on line will be far less costly.
A town in Maine that lost its paper mill, or one in North Carolina that lost its furniture factory converts an empty building to residences, brings in mentors, sets up for say, 300 students who like the idea of a small town as a campus. Black Eagle, Montana, might have 100 to study the ecology of the Great Plains, Rye Brook, NY, 20 to perfect their golf game while getting degrees, Conch Reef, Florida, 10 to study marine biology, Bay Shore, NY, 5 to be near philosopher, Saul Kripke,
Only at first thought does online learning seem impersonal. In fact it will open new vistas for individuality and bring the era of the guru, American-style, to higher education.