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BYU Prof. Says University Classrooms Will Be "Irrelevant" By 2020

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-into-job-security dept.

Education 469

dragoncortez writes "According to this Deseret News article, University classrooms will be obsolete by 2020. BYU professor David Wiley envisions a world where students listen to lectures on iPods, and those lectures are also available online to everyone anywhere for free. Course materials are shared between universities, science labs are virtual, and digital textbooks are free. He says, 'Higher education doesn't reflect the life that students are living ... today's colleges are typically tethered, isolated, generic, and closed.' In the world according to Wiley, universities would still make money, because they have a marketable commodity: to get college credits and a diploma, you'd have to be a paying customer. Wiley helped start Flat World Knowledge, which creates peer-reviewed textbooks that can be downloaded for free, or bought as paperbacks for $30."

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hmmm (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27662967)

I'm tired of school anyway.

Stamp your college diploma and move on with your life.

Sure it will. (4, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663015)

Right after the paperless office is perfected.

Re:Sure it will. (-1, Troll)

maofunction (1537913) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663235)

Right as soon as Joseph Smith repudiates Doctrine and Covenants Section 132...and finds those sacred golden tablets he misplaced...

OT: Jack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663427)

Right as soon as Joseph Smith repudiates Doctrine and Covenants Section 132...and finds those sacred golden tablets he misplaced...

Bitter, "Jack"?

Re:Sure it will. (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663249)

Right after the paperless office is perfected.

Umm, whatever.

Anyway, with the rise in online education, including charter schools (secondary) that are nearly all online, people are pushing their dollars towards institutions that aren't all brick and mortar. There are a few colleges that are all online and many of the brick and mortar schools are moving towards a format where blended courses (part online, part in-classroom) are the norm.

Education is at least partially funded by the students themselves and the state governments that are well known to run their "businesses" poorly. By cutting down on capital costs and increasing the reach of the classrooms to students that are not within driving distance or don't have the time to work full time and take courses on the college's schedule, institutions with online components (or even totally online) will slowly become the norm.

Why is this such a difficult thing for people to understand? While I enjoyed my physical college experience as an undergraduate, I could not possibly see myself going back to a brick and mortar institution for an advanced degree. The time and dollars necessary as well as the loss in income just wouldn't permit that to happen. Working in higher education for nearly a decade has taught me that I am not the only one. In fact, people that think like you do are way in the minority these days.

Re:Sure it will. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663525)

Much like the paperless office never showing up, the claim that University classrooms will be irrelevant by 2020 is likely wrong.

Re:Sure it will. (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663663)

Much like the paperless office never showing up, the claim that University classrooms will be irrelevant by 2020 is likely wrong.

I think you may be confusing "irrelevant" with "non-existent".

Brick and mortar schools will continue to exist. In fact, they will likely exist just as they do now. Thing is that with secondary enrollment dropping and competition with foreign institutions on the rise schools will need to kowtow to the needs of the student rather than the other way around. I see it as a very similar argument to the RIAA/MPAA deal. Students don't want to pay for an education as well as housing and food costs when there are alternatives that allow them not to.

As I mentioned above, I have worked in higher ed for a long time. I have done the brick and mortar and online side of things. At the last institution I worked for we had very few online courses and even fewer that were applicable to any degree track we offered. You would not believe how many people would call up and say, "what do you mean you don't have any online coursework?" So at this point the brick and mortars are working their asses off (sometimes under mandate by the state government as it is in MN) to offer tons more online coursework.

The biggest, nearly untapped, market in higher education is the adult learner. As I stated I don't know of many adult learners who have the flexibility in their lives to go back to a brick and mortar school to get a degree. But as more and more people learn the advantages of attending an online institution, the relevance of a brick and mortar education will diminish and the rise of online education will continue to rise just as it has with every other piece of the world (music, books, news, etc, etc).

Re:Sure it will. (5, Insightful)

anonymousbob22 (1320281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663529)

It seems to me that online degrees do not garner anywhere near the same amount of credibility that is given to a traditional degree. As a current engineering undergrad that has taken some online courses in high school, I can imagine using online learning to supplement classroom education, but it certainly cannot replace it. Labs and hands on learning require physical presence.
Also, by learning online, you're missing out on a lot of networking opportunities that you'd otherwise have with professors and other students. You can get to know professors over the internet, but it can't replace face to face conversation.

Re:Sure it will. (5, Insightful)

theIsovist (1348209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663725)

You ignore the benifit gained by being on campus with the professors and the students. With online classes, you do cut down on costs, but at the cost of human interaction. Your lessons become canned scripts, instead of lessons (hopefully) tailored to each class. You also lose the student culture, which is a huge part of college education. I cannot tell you how much I learned working with students in other fields, and the only reason we interacted is because we were in the same building together. Not only that, but it tempered my social skills, so that when I reached the working world, I understood how to interact with others.

WoTC... (1)

sirroc (1157745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663263)

They could even use WoTC as a digital distributor; they seem to be pretty goo- ermm wait...

Buy stock in Adobe!

Re:Sure it will. (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663393)

Right after the paperless office is perfected.

And right after college students learn to apply the same discipline to attending class and studying as they do to partying and carousing.

Re:Sure it will. (1)

redkingca (610398) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663539)

Exactly. They said the same thing about TV ending classrooms in the 60s.

Why Pay for a Degree (4, Insightful)

Manhigh (148034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663031)

If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree?

As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (5, Insightful)

Burkin (1534829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663041)

Because an HR drone will discard your resume because you don't have a degree?

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (3, Insightful)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663737)

A degree isn't everything. All it does is prove you took a certain number of units at some university, but it is no guarantee that you actually learned anything other than how to pass the exams. I feel as though anyone who has the skills for a job should at least get an interview whether they have a degree or not. The longer you have been out of college, the less important the degree becomes anyway. (past experience takes precedent over everything else)

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (3, Informative)

Egdiroh (1086111) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663097)

If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree? As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

By that reasoning most certification programs should be a thing of the past.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (1, Offtopic)

sckeener (137243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663343)

If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree? As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

By that reasoning most certification programs should be a thing of the past.

Agreed. All the certifications I have passed, I've done through book study or cbts. I hated computer class room training.

I still get certified even though I know the material because of the weed out factor which is the same reason most people get degrees.

I know of one other degree though that people get not because it is a weed out factor but for the power that it brings...Lawyers. My dad loved his letterhead. Any time he had issues with a company, his complaints were taken seriously since they didn't want to get sued.

One consequence of free learning though is all the DIY users. I can image the number of DIY users would go up making a higher base line of education. The jack of all trades and master of none would be common.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (3, Insightful)

ezelkow1 (693205) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663463)

This may work for some degrees, but not the majority of engineering degrees. You really need the hands on training to understand the theory you learn in most of your classes. Doing this on your own is very hard mainly because the average person would not have access to all the resources. I.E. for computer engineering having access to the multi-thousand dollar programs to do chip synthesis, vhdl design, and fpga testing. Having access to logic analyzers and all the previous knowledge of professors and grad students is something you cant get just by reading off of the internet. I believe this would also apply to most other engineering such as chemical, mechanical, materials etc.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (4, Insightful)

DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663099)

As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

How do prove your understanding? Now, if only there was some sort of system to examine your understanding and award degrees...

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (5, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663147)

It's quality control, plain and simple. Universities have a big incentive to ensure that their graduates live up to expectations.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663723)

It's quality control, plain and simple. Universities have a big incentive to ensure that their graduates live up to expectations.

They only admit students who already live up to their expectations, so what's the point?

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (1)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663101)

Because they offer certify that you did learn the stuff. This is why Microsoft, Cisco... make tons of certs.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (5, Insightful)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663129)

1) Because having a teacher explaining things to you can be a lot easier then trying to absorb it from a book

2) The internet is great, but some of the information is damn inaccurate. You would presume a university to make sure that what it teaches is correct and up-to-date. (Caveat emptor)

3) While a manager can grill applicants to see if they really know everything what they need to know, it's a whole lot more efficient to have "RHCE" or "MSCE" etc. in your resume.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (5, Insightful)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663155)

If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree?

Education != Information.

Just because I have a good portion of the world's information at my fingertips, doesn't mean that I know how to access, correlate, digest, or comprehend it. That's what college is for; it's not just rote memorization of facts.

As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

The degree is supposed to be the proof of your understanding. A equally comprehensive test would take just as long, and cost just as much.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (0, Troll)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663307)

That's what college is for; it's not just rote memorization of facts.

Depends on the quality of the school. Clearly, BYU is a crappy schoole where it is just rote memorization of facts with no actual understanding taught.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663455)

Depends on the quality of the school. Clearly, BYU is a crappy schoole

Oh bitter irony, why must you be so ironic?

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (1, Redundant)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663311)

If everyone in the world has access to the information then why bother paying for the degree?

Why do people pay for MCSE and similar certifications?

As long as I can prove my understanding of the knowledge then why should I pay a particular university to vouch for me?

As long as they can rely on universities and certifying organizations to vouch for people, at least as a first filter, why would hiring companies put more effort into letting candidates "prove their knowledge" in the first stage of the review process?

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (1)

SlashDev (627697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663449)

Mmmmm not so. Where you get the information is irrelevant, books ,Internet or iPod. Prove that you know the material is what gets you the degree. The reason why a university has to vouch for you is because there has to a standard by which your knowledge is tested, who asks for these standards? Employers.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (3, Informative)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663513)

Interesting idea, but leaves the deaf folks out in the cold.

I should know. Went to a class Saturday where the videos weren't subtitled. Fairly useless to me, but I muddled through.

WITH subtitling, it might have some niche applications in distance education but I just can't see the brick and mortars going for this for all their students.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (3, Funny)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663553)

I bought my degree from the same people I buy my V1agr4.

Re:Why Pay for a Degree (3, Insightful)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663699)

Why pray tell would anyone want a degree? The simple answer is that you can learn far quicker if you can ask someone for help. That help may be the lecturer (who you'd hope is an expert), or it may be the 50 or so peers in your year group. I'd agree that the piece of paper at the end is largely irrelevant (aside from resumes), however the amount of knowledge you acquire along the way is far greater than attempting to go it alone

Education is not just a case of having the material available to you. Education is, and always will be, a two way process. The lecturer delivers a lecture, the students ask questions, the lecturer answers said questions, and as a result the lecturer may change/modify/update his material to better reflect the needs of his/her students. I used to lecture a few years ago, and the students have a tendancy to keep you on your toes, and as a result you are always refining and improving your materials.

If you remove the classroom and interaction from the equation, the lecturer can't push the student (academically), and the students can't push the lecturer to improve. After a few years without a classroom you'll have a stagnant department, in a stagnant university, taught by irrelevant lectures, and the final graduates will be largely ignored in the real world.

Sure there are ways in which new technology can help deliver teaching materials in new ways, but it can't replace real physical interaction.

My guess is that Prof David Wiley is approaching retirement, has a final salary pension, and is spouting any old drivel in order to form a committee to boost his responsibilities, and therefore earnings, and therefore pension pot. In my experience, that's normally the reason for crackpots spouting hugely flawed ideas.

Classroom interaction is valuable (4, Insightful)

77Punker (673758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663067)

I don't know what kind of classes he's teaching, but when I was in school asking questions and having some sort of discussion as part of the lecture was just as important as the textbook.

Hearing perspectives and having those perspectives challenged and evaluated by your professors and fellow students is an integral component of the college experience. I doubt listening to iPod lectures would be nearly as useful.

Giving out information for free is a great idea, but the electronic media can't replace human interaction.

Re:Classroom interaction is valuable (2, Insightful)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663191)

Electronic media can't replace human interaction. It can, however, intermediate it. If you were in Austin, TX I could have told you that in person. But even if you're not, I can still say it.

The classroom discussions will probably be replaced by blogs, chats, etc.

Re:Classroom interaction is valuable (1)

InspectorPenny (1523741) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663203)

I don't know what kind of classes he's teaching, but when I was in school asking questions and having some sort of discussion as part of the lecture was just as important as the textbook.

Hearing perspectives and having those perspectives challenged and evaluated by your professors and fellow students is an integral component of the college experience. I doubt listening to iPod lectures would be nearly as useful.

Giving out information for free is a great idea, but the electronic media can't replace human interaction.

I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. Not everyone learns well through lectures, just like not everyone learns through text.

That's why textbooks haven't replaced classrooms before now: not everyone learns well through reading.

I could see this happening if classes were more like video conferences. But that would still be a kind of "classroom setting", just not in an actual classroom. Still, that'd save universities the costs of needing to build new classrooms and dorms.

Re:Classroom interaction is valuable (4, Funny)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663217)

Hearing perspectives and having those perspectives challenged and evaluated by your professors and fellow students is an integral component of the college experience.

"What? You didn't support Obama last election? Get out of my classroom, you crypto-fascist son of a bitch!"

Re:Classroom interaction is valuable (1)

Bazman (4849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663267)

In lectures these days in our department apparently the level of interaction is minimal. Maybe there will be one student who asks questions. Mostly they stare at their phones. Why? Well, one hypothesis is shyness, and the fear of being *wrong* or looking stupid.

So to mitigate against this, our dept has bought a set of PRS units. Personal Response Systems. Every student gets one at the start of the lecture, and then when the lecturer wants to say "So, given all that, what would the answer to this question be?", the student presses button A, B, C, or D. And the responses come up on a chart.

The PRS units have actually been stuck in their boxes for a year, unused, because it requires staff to actually work out how to use the things, it requires all the batteries to work, it requires the receiver box to be integrated with the lecture room PC, it requires the lecturer to install a PowerPoint add-on to set questions and chart the answers....

Re:Classroom interaction is valuable (1)

fisticuffs (1537381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663293)

Right. In the future we'd probably instead see more "virtual classroom" lectures, where students log on to a real-time lecture via webcam from the comforts of their home or dorm room, replacing actually going to class. Another good compromise would be to have the lecture videotaped and the office hours walk-in or live cam session as described above.

Re:Classroom interaction is valuable (1)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663361)

Absolutely agree. Lecture is mostly dead. I found myself skipped 50% of the classes. But classes does not consists the major part of my university life. Interaction with Professor, with Classmates, and the resources available in University that enable many more idea to be realized are the key.

Did he mention virtual Lab? I didn't RTFA but how is it going to work!? unless you are saying we are plugged in the Matrix...

Re:Classroom interaction is valuable (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663641)

Just attach a blog, like SlashDot, to the textbook chapters. That gives you a platform for discussion with others having the same questions.

If you need accurate information, you can always be sure to get it from SlashDot posts.

We definately need some WikiBooks created, like "The Worlds History According to Slashdot", "Slashdots Scientific Encyclopedia", and "The Slashdot Legal Advisor".

This seems likely. (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663075)

This does seem likely.

"What!" you scream. "No way. This doesn't sound like effective education."

But I say, "Ah, does that matter? It's cheaper, and the current generation is probably universally going to grow up to go to college, so resources will be strung out a bit more."

Re:This seems likely. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663341)

I would disagree with that and say that each generation is getting dumber, and as such less people go to college, let alone graduate public highschool.

The proof is in the trends. With each and every new trend that actively engages young minds to rot (read: pre-occupies critical thought with fruitless endeavours), such as your ipod, netbook, gameboy, etc etc etc... Anything that can deter you from using logic and reasoning while applying critical thought, can't be the future of our education. If anyone really thinks so, shoot me now. Please.

Re:This seems likely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663661)

Post your address, I'll make arrangements.

Completely Agree (3, Insightful)

squizzi (1180089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663079)

All of my classes use Blackboard or Moodle, I barely take paper tests anymore (all online) .. and I regret buying 3 of my books because all of the text is online. I just finished up Cisco Netacad which had everything online, and am currently taking Redhat Academy. Not to mention, about 2 weeks ago I had a virtual lecture in Second Life! I still think going to class is essential however ... in some cases if I don't at least sit myself down in a class I begin to lose track and miss out on some of the more convenient information.

Re:Completely Agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663523)

Yes but thats not school - thats a trade certification whose value is up to the market.

I dont think we want certification programs replacing traditional education.

Untrue (4, Insightful)

LuYu (519260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663095)

Books and lectures are going to be digitised, but the one thing we truly need teachers and professors for will not change: Answering questions. Everybody understands information in their own way, and therefore, it takes a human being to pick up where the books and lectures leave off.

Unfortunately, most college professors do not interact with students. Lectures were made obsolete by the invention of the book thousands of years ago, but still today we have professors lecturing from yellowed notes.

I hope technology will finally force them to change their ways, but I doubt it will.

Re:Untrue (3, Insightful)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663225)

Unfortunately, most college professors do not interact with students. Lectures were made obsolete by the invention of the book thousands of years ago, but still today we have professors lecturing from yellowed notes.

Oh, god, that was the worst. Bonus fail points if they turned the chapter in to a powerpoint presentation, then said nothing other than what was on the powerpoint slides. Then they'd require attendance, but be surprised that no-one was bothering to do the reading.

Re:Untrue (5, Insightful)

tastiles (466054) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663331)

Unfortunately, at most universities, you'd be right, professors do not interact with students and there is no "real" communication. But there is already an alternative. Small colleges (less than 5000 students) with no TA's encourage communication and collaboration between undergraduate students and professors. I'm thrilled to be working at one. By far the best part of my day is office hours, working with individual students to better understand class or the textbook.

Re:Untrue (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663491)

It seems things are turning; small colleges providing a better education with 20/30-student classes, whereas big universities offer better experience in the field, and 300/400-student classes. In high-school parlance, big colleges are now becoming "technical/trade schools".

We almost need to go back to the old (really old) method; bunch of students pool their money and hire a professor.

Re:Untrue (1)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663537)

Every generation wishes something would force them to change their ways.

Then one day you wake up and gather your books and discover "them" in the mirror as you realize a hundred people even younger than you are going to be staring down at you wishing the same things you once did.

Politics against it (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663103)

It won't happen because if one could get a certified education from any on-line source, then the existing universities will be largely offshored, just like much of IT. The existing universities will rig the certification system to only license on-shore universities using the excuse of "human interaction" and other buzzwords. Unlike us programmers, the universities both have more political power and will exercise it to protect their rears.

Re:Politics against it (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663279)

The universities can make sure my degree from "New Delhi online school of IT" (NDOSOIT) is not accredited in the US. But in most cases I don't need it to be accredited - I just need it to be respected by employers.

If employers can go to a reliable verification source and see that NDOSOIT is as good as the universities in the US, they won't care if the universities consider it accredited or not.

Re:Politics against it (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663713)

Some will care if it's accredited and some won't. Because of this uncertainty, an accredited degree is overall more valuable in the marketplace than a non-accredited one.

No replacing human interaction. (3, Insightful)

MaXintosh (159753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663119)

Hadn't we heard this all before? `TV is going to replace lectures.` God knows they probably said the same thing about radio replacing the classroom.
Science labs - biology especially - can't be taught digitally. You need to go out and do. Chemistry is another lab that can't replacedThat Dr. Wiley thinks they can shows more his ignorance of subjects outside his own.
And when it comes to lectures, there's just no substitute for human interaction. I've seen people at both my current institution, and my alma matter offer their entire course on MP3, video, and other media formats. Making a purely un-scientific guess, 95% of students don't use them as a replacement, but as a supplement to lecture. People seem to prefer the face time, and the ability to ask questions.

We're social mammals. Classes are sticking around.

Re:No replacing human interaction. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663387)

Everyone likes human interaction better, you are right. The question is, how much is it worth to you? If you could get a 20% reduction in tuition by watching movies instead, would you take it? A lot of people would. And hey, frankly it's better than having a graduate student teach the class, which happens in a lot of places.

Re:No replacing human interaction. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663451)

I totally agree. I took a Mechanical Engineering degree, and there is no digital replacement for hands on labs. Most Mechanical Engineers don't weld in their jobs, but it is important to at least do it once.

They already have this... (1)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663123)

http://www.phoenix.edu/ [phoenix.edu]

It's been going on for quite a while, actually.

Classrooms won't be obsolete though for quite a long time though, because I doubt listening to a lecture on an iPod will give you a better experience than being in a lecture hall. We will use classrooms until they have helmets that we can put on and be given the info we need for life.

He's Associat Prof of Instructional Psych and Tech (2, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663131)

At BYU. That's not a respectable title for this kind of speculation in my opinion. From his homepage [davidwiley.org] :

* BFA, Music (Vocal Performance), Marshall University, 1997. (Voice Teacher: Paul Balshaw)
* PhD, Instructional Psychology and Technology, Brigham Young University, 2000.
* Postdoctoral Fellowship, Instructional Technology, Utah State University, 2001.

Judging from his brief bio, this is something he'd like to see with little or no evidence to back it up. Good luck, man, I didn't find much backing this up other than you would like it.

Wiley is one part Nostradamus and nine parts revolutionary, an educational evangelist who preaches ...

You said it, not me.

Tethered, isolated, generic, and closed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663137)

Sounds like colleges are finally preparing kids for the real world.

Not just information. (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663143)

Colleges and universities don't just provide information. They provide information in a particularly form, with someone to ask about the information, and test to verify that you know the information. Then, after all that, they provide a certification to prove to potential employers that you know that information.

Yes, you can learn all the same info without them, but you have collect the data yourself from various sources and have the drive to actually learn all of it. You can take all the tests you want, but without an institution to administer the test (to prevent cheating) and certify it (so that it's not just your word that you passed), you just have the information.

Don't get me wrong... I place a lot greater stock in someone's ability and knowledge than I do in an institution. But I also know if an institution's word is a lot easier to trust than an individual's.

All of the information in college/uni classes has been available in book for for as long as they've been using books to teach from. Nothing has -ever- stopped a person from simply buying the books and teaching themselves. iPods have nothing to do with it.

Re:Not just information. (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663219)

Colleges and universities don't just provide information.

They also provide physical proximity to classmates of the opposite sex.

Re:Not just information. (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663603)

They also provide physical proximity to classmates of the opposite sex. Yeah, there were one or two of them in my engineering classes.

Re:Not just information. (1)

acohen1 (1454445) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663727)

Only in non-technical programs. Most of classes had maybe 1 female to every 30 males.

Eh. Maybe. (5, Insightful)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663157)

I sort of agree with what the professor is saying. Already, lectures are available online (including the very awesome, Hulu-like site, Academic Earth [academicearth.org] ), and the use of iTunes to distribute lectures is already taking place.

Despite the usefulness of these technologies, I only think these things expand the reach of the classroom, but I definitely don't think that classrooms are going anywhere anytime soon. The use of websites and iTunes to reach people is no real difference than what books have done for a very long time. The people who are going to take time to watch the videos would have read the books.

Additionally, I *highly* disagree with the idea that "today's colleges are typically tethered, isolated, generic, and closed." I went to an engineering university, and the amount of technical stuff going on there was absolutely awesome. All you had to do was attend one of the many seminars, working groups, or even a classroom to see amazing work that students were doing. Being around other students also spurred my own ideas towards various projects.

Last of all, I'd argue that the teaching received in the classrooms really is very little about the college experience. Sure, someone may be able to "learn" a lot about physics from a podcast, but he or she is going to have little real-world experience. This, to me, was the most valuable experience I received from my college career.

Basically, I think these technologies will help reach more people, but they aren't going to make the current world obsolete.

But if there are no classrooms.... (4, Funny)

khendron (225184) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663159)

...where will I sleep?

Re:But if there are no classrooms.... (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663345)

at home in your bed. Classroom chair/desk combinations are rather uncomfortable to sleep in anyway. This is a Plus :D

Re:But if there are no classrooms.... (1)

Deosyne (92713) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663505)

That's why you try to sign up for the most popular classes. They get hosted in the big lecture halls with the comfier seats. :)

I'm all for this! (1)

Bazman (4849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663169)

The more the students sort out their own education via social networks and free coursewares, the more time we researchers and lecturers have for doing research and not having to punch information into undergrads....

A friend of mine is teaching maths for final year environmental science students. One of them, confused about sines and cosines, asked "What is this 'trig' stuff?". Remember, these are _science_ students. If they want to learn trig by joining the Facebook We Love Trigonometry group then whoop-de-doo, as long as you do some assignments (online) and the quality doesn't suffer then it's go go go. Maybe we can even demolish these ugly student halls of residence and they can all stay home with mum and dad for three years, which, given the current economic climate, is where they'll have to stay after they graduate...

So... (0, Troll)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663171)

This is a BYU prof who doesn't seem to have ever set foot in a university because he just doesn't get it.

Dr. Wiley! (1)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663205)

And you're really going to believe a guy who can't even create a powerful robot [wikipedia.org] ?! Psh.

Re:Dr. Wiley! (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663747)

Or walk on fire [wikipedia.org] !

What you learn in class is less than half of it... (5, Insightful)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663221)

When will people learn that you go to college to prepare for life, not just a job or career. You go to learn how to be self sufficient, to go to bed so you're not dead for classes, to show up, and generally learn to be an adult. College is an environment where a lot of people fail at that at first, but most, by the time they graduate, are capable of living on their own and holding some sort of job. College isn't just basic engineering or english or math, its basic life. If their parents can afford it, kids need to be out on their own in a forgiving environment like a dorm or college community where they do their own laundry and feed themselves.

On the other side, merely showing up to classes, paying attention, and doing homework is another large part of being an adult. Meetings and work do not happen "whenever you get to it", I'd be sad to see classes go by the wayside if only because what you learn outside and around the class is just as vital in the long run as what you learn in class.

Re:What you learn in class is less than half of it (2, Insightful)

astarf (1292110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663391)

I absolutely concur. It's also worth noting that being forced to sit in a room with other students and hold discussions is an immensely valuable experience. Otherwise, you might as well purchase a textbook, study on your own, and avoid the cost of tuition.

Re:What you learn in class is less than half of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663735)

Dude! This guy is at BYU. You know the place whose Code of Conduct [byu.edu] requires its own web space. All of those details about life that you need to work out have been decided for you already in intricate detail. If I had to go to BYU I would be thinking that it is time to set up a virtual campus too.

Re:What you learn in class is less than half of it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663743)

...If their parents can afford it, kids need to be out on their own in a forgiving environment like a dorm or college community where they do their own laundry and feed themselves.

Part of being an adult is not depending on your parents for money.

Nothing prepares you for the "real world" like balancing two part-time jobs and classes.

Networking? (2, Informative)

svendsen (1029716) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663231)

Some good points in the article don't get me wrong. Right now I am going back for my 2nd master's degree. Being a little wiser now then my first time around I know one of the most important things (besides knowledge) is networking especially in this economy.

Seeing a prof. face to face or going for a few beers after class helps build a strong network one can leverage.

I'm not sure the pure online experience will allow for such strong networking. I know a few people who have done the pure online degrees (Univ. of Phoenix) when I ask them about their class mates, networking, etc. pretty much the answer I have received was there was none (or very little).

So it will be interesting to see how that aspect plays out.

Who goes to college for classes? (1)

Chris Snook (872473) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663259)

Seriously, I thought it was all about the social stature, earnings potential, open culture, plentiful recreational substances, and sea of prospective sex partners. Classes are when you sleep.

Doubtful (1)

Reddragon220 (890851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663265)

If that was true we would already have a very large amount of MiT level engineers and Harvard Business school level people walking around thanks to iTunesU. The fact of the matter is that while sitting through a lecture can indeed be useful, where you actually learn the material is through the homework assignments and meeting with professors during office hours to review confusing topics. I'm not denying that the occasional luminary could pull it off and learn something entirely on their own, but the average student needs that safety net that the classroom provides.

Ballrom Dance Classes Irrelevant? (1)

blong206b (1537915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663269)

Is it possible to Learn to social dance online? Reference the many YouTube Videos and online dance syllabi.

Not until real virtual reality tech is developed (2, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663281)

Nothing beats human interaction. Anyone can listen/watch a lecture recording, but participation requires genuine human interaction.

The only thing that can really provide that is VR tech so good it fools the brains that it's real. Our understanding of how the senses really work is nowhere near there yet.

My Professor had a Similar Idea... (2, Interesting)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663321)

I once had a profession with a similar idea. He thinks that you should go to the University, buy all the required textbooks, and show up 4 years later to get your degree. One student asked him, "How will they know if you really read the books?" The professor replied, "They don't care now."

Self-promotion vs. Reality (0, Flamebait)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663337)

Wiley is, according to TFA, a professor of psychology and instructional technology. He is not listed among BYU psychology faculty, even visiting. The department he belongs to is called "Instructional Psychology and Technology", which is academi-bloat for "education". His bio is sparse, not stating what his psychology background is. If he has any, it is almost certainly 'soft' psychology, rather than nuts & bolts research. Since one of his interests is in technology, I recommend he visit a working neuroscience lab. The width and depth of technology used in such work will certainly spin his wheels. But he'll also see the situations in which hands on research can't possibly be simulated realistically. As much problem solving goes into designing and getting running as into answering the question of interest -- things go wrong and the student has to learn to make them go right.

To his credit another of his interests in in intellectual property law and open source licensing. That doesn't erase the fact that he's speaking outside his own box when he claims face to face education is doomed.

Sleep deprivation (2, Funny)

EvilToiletPaper (1226390) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663375)

No more classrooms! Where will students sleep?

We're gonna breed a mutant race of sleep deprived zombies.

What's the world coming to

Instituitional Barriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663381)

Community colleges are already moving a lot of their classes online and I expect to see the trend continue. What I see at the Ivy League level, though, is a shift toward group learning: interacting with the other students is the "value" that your tuition pays for. At a practical level, there are plenty of parents who would pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to see their daughter dating an Ivy League boy rather than a community college boy.

One point that's worth making, though, is that the technology to do videos/movies rather than in-person lectures has existed for many decades - but most college lectures are still delivered in-person. At least for content based courses that are taught thousands of time per year (for example, introductory biology) video/movie lectures could be produced that would be far superior to all but the best in-person lectures (for far less than the cost of paying all the biology lecturers).

So why haven't video/movie lectures taken over? In a word, institutional reasons. As an example, there's a huge number of people with biology PhDs and these people need jobs. The amount of both private and public funding for biology research is far less than what is necessary to give jobs to even a small fraction of biology PhDs - so the biology PhDs create a make-work system of giving (the same) in-person lectures (over-and-over) to small classes all throughout the country.

If the government was willing to put up more money for research or to put up money for a standard set of introductory biology video/movie lectures then everyone would be much better off. We'd get cures for diseases sooner and we'd get better biology education. As it is though, all the biology PhDs have put together a make-work system that at least keeps them off the streets.

And who will make the materials? (1)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663423)

If the entire class is essentially available for free digitally (save the actual exam), where is the motivation to create quality study materials? I'm sorry, but book profits are what drives newer and better textbooks into the book stores every year. Will this be a world where the prestige of the position and school you work for as a professor is dictated not only by your lectures, but also by the study material you contribute to the collective? I suspect it might be.

Virtual Labs? (1)

tastiles (466054) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663441)

I love open content and use MIT OCW and other materials to prepare and teach my courses. But I don't think virtual labs will ever compete with real labs. In reality, your magnetic field measurements are complicated by the NMR coil upstairs and you have to explain why. In reality, data point number 7 does not fit the line. Even with random number generators, virtual labs disconnect measurements from reality and are not a valid substitute.

I've taught physics labs both ways and the students are happier with real labs and the learning outcomes are much better with real labs.

Everything remote? (1)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663461)

Dissect a pig on an iPod? Nope.
Build a robot through a webinar? Not that either.
Get good critique on a sculpture as I make if from an art-teacher 3 time-zones away? nope?
I suppose I could make a remote-operated microscope, but who will work the petri dish.

I suppose some fieds perhaps. Other require work in the field (anthropology for example) or in a lab (biology, physics) or in a group (music performance) or at an event (equestrian) or "on the job" (medicine).

Re:Everything remote? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663607)

I sure as heck hope iPods are obsolete by 2020!

valuable parts that are hard to replace (1)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663471)

You can learn valuable information for little to no cost now but that doesn't replace other valuable parts of a college experience. When you don't need a classroom you don't need to physically attend a college which sounds nice initially. The system he's suggesting doesn't create many significant networking opportunities and connecting with peers to build future job prospects is very valuable. In general technical folk don't tend to see the full utility of this but it is good to know people in your field.

While it is likely to reduce cost I doubt it will reduce price in a meaningful way which means we'll be effectively trading convenience for value.

Then why conferences? (1)

wytcld (179112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663481)

Consider: Academics have long had full access to journals, books, great libraries, and even peers in their departments. But still we go to conferences, and can be tremendously stimulated by them. Why is that? We've read the books and papers of the more interesting presenters already. We've even corresponded with a few. Despite all this, the right conference is uniquely valuable to focusing and improving our craft.

It's the human factor - the full experience of the character of those who are having the best success. There's a contagion that happens in the presence of good minds. Some of that happens through papers, books, correspondence. But there's far more that comes across only in the presence of the person.

We can recognize that and still expect that many mediocre professors may well be replaced by online coursework. A brilliant book is often better than a drudge at a podium. But the great professors, in person, will never be supplanted - not before telepresence has advanced to where it qualifies as "in person" too.

Re:Then why conferences? (1)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663533)

TFA kindly avoids the need for chemistry, physics or engineering laboratories to do real science in. And meeting people face-to-face is a priceless part of that collaboration.

Online Education is a good thing? (1)

robmarms (1249924) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663545)

Most people scoff at degrees from an online university... because anyone can cheat their way through any test of knowledge. I teach at a major university and the idea of labs on a computer is horrific! I myself took a molecular genetics lab on a computer. While the simulation was wonderful, it was ultimately useless... you can not teach lab techniques on a computer, period.

Since when is University about attending lecture? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663565)

I thought college was supposed to teach you social interaction. Isn't that what you need to shell out 100K+ to prove? That you are able to be a paying participant in society, and that you can interact with others?

Distance learning overhyped (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663593)

We've had distance learning for thousands of years---it's called "books".

The reason courses work better much better than just trying to read the book is the human interaction, especially the chance to ask questions and feedback. Unless your distance learning setup provides that, it will be no more successful than
telling people to read the book.

Of course, you could do courses to a remote location by teleconferencing (with some difficulty), but it will still take the same
amount of instructor hours/student (or more).

It is usually thought that the campus experience is more than just attending classes.

Yeah... right (1)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663595)

And so will paper in offices, and toilet paper, and cities, and and workplaces, and anything except our personal entertainment pods.

The problem is, he assumes that classrooms are just places where the prof broadcasts, you receive, and then you leave. In bad classrooms that's true, and if they go the way of the dodo, the world might be a better place.

But if he's going to argue that classrooms will be different, I'd agree: the 500 personal lecture hall that feels more like a train station, as discussed in Murray Sperber's Beer and Circus [wordpress.com] , is probably an anachronism. But the classroom where one exchanges ideas, responds to other students, and the like is still very much necessary, and perhaps even more necessary than ever because it's a place free of distraction [wordpress.com] , at least relatively speaking. I would expect the value of intellectual jazz to go up, not down, thanks to podcasts and what nots.

Finally, I'm reminded of something Paul Graham wrote in Cities and Ambition [paulgraham.com] :

When you talk about cities in the sense we are, what you're really talking about is collections of people. For a long time cities were the only large collections of people, so you could use the two ideas interchangeably. But we can see how much things are changing from the examples I've mentioned. New York is a classic great city. But Cambridge is just part of a city, and Silicon Valley is not even that. (San Jose is not, as it sometimes claims, the capital of Silicon Valley. It's just 178 square miles at one end of it.)

Maybe the Internet will change things further. Maybe one day the most important community you belong to will be a virtual one, and it won't matter where you live physically. But I wouldn't bet on it. The physical world is very high bandwidth, and some of the ways cities send you messages are quite subtle.

(Emphasis added.)

The ultimate high bandwidth experience isn't going away by 2020.

Tard!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663599)

Bill Gates also said the he didn't understand why anyone would want a GUI or that we would never need more than 8mb of ram. So take predictions for what they are worth... SQUAT!!!!!

This is the world of tomorrow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663629)

Funny you should mention. We're already there.

Here at University of Texas, the lectures are irrelevant in the sense they don't really help. You're expected, for every single class, to go to lecture for attendance and then study about 8 hours outside to try to understand the material the professor should have explained but instead just read of the slides.

How will I get laid online? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27663653)

I'm trying to get laid in the dorms, but, I cannot seem to so why in God's name would I want to go to some online college where there's no dorms and I have an even less chance of getting laid!

Right about the time we get strong AI... (1)

edremy (36408) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663665)

...and flying cars.

He's saying this for the headlines- he knows it's not possible. I'm a huge proponent of tech in education- it's been my career for close to 15 years, and it's simply not in the realm to do this now or in the near future.

The list of objections is just huge:

How do you do science and engineering? These are hands on fields that require a large amount of very expensive (and potentially dangerous) equipment. Claiming you can do it in a virtual lab experience is about as sane as claiming that getting good at MS Flight Simulator means you can pilot a 747. Yes, you can learn a lot with a virtual lab (and I push their use whenever appropriate), but it's simply not the same. Virtual courses work great for history or philosophy, not so much for organic chem.

How do you do student research? You don't have the facilities at home, and you can't afford the books/journals/database access to get to the data you really need. This is changing slowly with things like PLoS, but until publishing there gives you the same bennies as Nature or Science (and J. Org. Chem...) you're going to need those too for any serious work. A university library is a very different animal from the thing in your local town, they cost a fortune to run and the internet is nowhere near a substitute.

A huge amount of learning involves inter-personal interaction, either with other students or students to professors

A huge amount of getting a job after graduation involves inter-personal interaction, either with other students or students to professors. These two are critical. Businesses expect people to be able to work in teams- sitting behind a computer reading, watching some videos and taking an online test really isn't an amazingly useful skill. The networking you do in higher ed really is critical both to learning and to long term job/social life prospects, and virtual is going to be a pale substitute for a long time until Beer-Over-IP becomes possible. (He even admits BYU is going to survive simply as a place for Mormons to meet potential mates.)

Finally, he seems to conflate two totally separate things- virtual universities like U. Phoenix and online course material postings like OpenCourseWare. They aren't the same- U Phoenix is a real university, with professors, dedicated courses and the like. (It's worth noting though that their course listings are *very* sparse- outside of business courses they offer almost nothing.)

He's right that universities need to change but they already are changing, and a lot more rapidly than most people think. We already are using virtual textbooks- my seminar course (along with many others) doesn't really have a textbook, but instead a series of postings on electronic reserve. This is hardly uncommon- we've been doing it for years. We already use wikis and blogs in courses to facilitate sharing. We're working (against entrenched copyright holders) to find ways to distribute and edit/mash audio, video, print and electronic content. We already use message boards and Skype to connect language learners with each other despite distances. Yes, tech is changing education, but the school I work for has been here for 177 years, survived everything from a Confederate attack to allowing women and blacks into the ranks to the advent of high tech and I'll put quite a bit of money that it'll still be here long after anyone reading this is dead.

That prof's retirement year is .... (2, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663669)

.... 2019! bang! He is essentially saying, "Once I retire there is no one who is worth listening to in person and all professors will become irrelevant. Come on. Face it. I am the greatest prof of all time and after me it is not worth going to the univ. Just stand in line and buy my book."

other great predictions: (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27663687)

stupid prediction, 1980s style: computers would reduce the use of paper in offices

fact: paper use in offices has gone right on up, as people seem to print all sorts of crap, as my boss who prints out articles for bathroom reading can attest

stupid prediction, 1990s style: the internet would render cities obsolete

fact: cities have continues to grow, as life in the country is pretty boring, although real estate prices in manhattan are finally beginning to follow the rest of the country down (but not in the tank)

stupid prediction, 2000s style: university classrooms are obsolete

MY prediction: 18-21 year olds are interested in socializing and sex. if you cut their legs off and left them in a desert, they will claw their way to the nearest coed dorm, and then slough themselves to university classrooms the next day, since they need somewhere to sit and update their facebook page on their netbook

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