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All-You-Can-Eat College For $99-a-Month

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the om-nom-nom dept.

Education 272

theodp writes "Writing in Washington Monthly, Kevin Carey has seen the future of college education. It costs $99-a-month, and there's no limit on the number of courses you can take. Tiny online education firm StraighterLine is out to challenge the seeming permanency of traditional colleges and universities. How? Like Craigslist, StraighterLine threatens the most profitable piece of its competitors' business: freshman lectures, higher education's equivalent of the classified section. It's no surprise, then, that as StraighterLine tried to buck the system, the system began to push back, challenging deals the company struck with accredited traditional and for-profit institutions to allow StraighterLine courses to be transferred for credit. But even if StraighterLine doesn't succeed in bringing extremely cheap college courses to the masses, it's likely that another player eventually will."

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Community college, anyone? (5, Insightful)

SomeGuyFromCA (197979) | about 5 years ago | (#29323375)

This already exists... I went to community college for about $300-$400 a semester, including books, supplies and parking. What, just because it's on the internet, it's a new concept?

Oh. RIGHT...

Re:Community college, anyone? (2, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | about 5 years ago | (#29323441)

I hate to break it to you but that must have been some pretty sweet times. Today my closest community college charges about 95 USD per credit and if you need to see what a text book costs go to Amazon.

Re:Community college, anyone? (1)

SomeGuyFromCA (197979) | about 5 years ago | (#29323483)

10 yrs ago, $11/credit, used books for ~$30-$50 (math books about $75). I'm having issues looking up the current fees.

Re:Community college, anyone? (4, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 5 years ago | (#29323809)

isohunt.com and a search for "The Teaching Company" - free

knowledge gained from hearing the world's best professors - priceless

Now true this won't get you that coveted degree which the Human Cattle..... er, Resources office demands to enter their exclusive clubs called corporations, but it will make the actual degree easier to earn. You can skate through with 25 or even 30 credits a semester, plus summer, and finish your college experience in just 1.5 years.

Of course I think most of us who HAVE gone to college realize that's not really the point. College is a chance to be a kid for 4 more years, scoring with women, and hopefully meet your future wife or husband. The reason people remember their alma maters so fondly is because it was the last time they lived without any responsibility. The piece-of-paper is just a nice bonus along the way to being a white-collar serf..... oops, employee.

(Do I sound bitter? Nah. Just less idealistic and more pragmatic.)

Re:Community college, anyone? (4, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 5 years ago | (#29324181)

Of course I think most of us who HAVE gone to college realize that's not really the point. College is a chance to be a kid for 4 more years, scoring with women, and hopefully meet your future wife or husband. The reason people remember their alma maters so fondly is because it was the last time they lived without any responsibility.

Funny, I'm more of a "kid" in many ways now than I was in college...sure didn't score with women! (Young geeks - it *does* get better! Have hope!) I was taking challenging classes -- was actually trying to do a dual degree in CS and physics, before my brain started to melt and I decide that was Not Fun. and working part-time, certainly not living with no responsibility.

When I look back at my college days, the thing I remember most fondly is the continual encounter with new ideas. Yes, that is something that you can and should keep going for the rest of your life. And I have, to some degree -- besides voracious reading on many topics, I went back to school a few years ago to study Asian Bodywork Therapy [earthtouchshiatsu.com] , and in the past few years I also took two semesters of Japanese at the community college.

But as an undergrad, my prime occupation was learning new stuff.

There's a Roger Zelazny novel where the protagonist inherits a trust fund that supports him so long as he's in college -- so he manages to keep changing his major, and doesn't gradate for over a decade. I always thought that sounded like an excellent way to live.

Re:Community college, anyone? (2, Informative)

chaoticgeek (874438) | about 5 years ago | (#29323821)

Ya 10 years ago is pretty dated for college courses now. My local community college charges 131/credit hour. 3 hour course costs you 393 plus your books and any fees you might have to pay. And well books are a entirely different monster to deal with. My world religions class I'm taking has two books, one for 98 and the other was 70 and I could not find them online used.

Re:Community college, anyone? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323893)

My (well known public institute of technology) charges something like $160-200 per credit hour, dependent on if you have the 4 year fixed tuition.

If you take 3 hours of classes, it's only $300 in mandatory fees (Technology, transportation, mandatory fee to cover budget shortages). 4+ hr results in the full amount of fees, $600

Once you take at least 12 hours of classes, your rate caps out.

Add in books, which is normally $100-$150 per class, unless you can bum it off a friend, download it, or buy it online. Once I was able to buy a book online for less than the school store buyback rate. I made $3 on that textbook ^^

Re:Community college, anyone? (0, Offtopic)

cbraescu1 (180267) | about 5 years ago | (#29324061)

NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

Re:Community college, anyone? (1)

jarocho (1617799) | about 5 years ago | (#29323591)

That's the thing with California community colleges, many of them are part of the larger public education system. In LA, at least, they just RAISED the tuition fee to $26/unit.

Thus, in comparison, $99/mo is no bargain for Californians. Plus, the idea of being able to take as many classes as you want may sound great, but students can quickly get themselves into trouble with their GPA's (not to mention their jobs and even their personal lives) by overextending themselves with their course loads. There's a reason why most CC's cap enrollment at 15 units, and why students have to get special permission to take any more. I think 18 units is the maximum I've heard among fellow students... And by the end of the semester, their heads looked like they were about to explode.

Re:Community college, anyone? (1)

Delwin (599872) | about 5 years ago | (#29323627)

My college allowed 18 without permission and 24 max. Some people did 24 and did very well with it.

It's all about how well you can organize your time and which classes you're taking.

Re:Community college, anyone? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29323839)

I carried 24 for the last 2 years of my first degree - I was fortunate to be in a position where I didn't have to work and could focus solely on school. It was nice.

Re:Community college, anyone? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 5 years ago | (#29324049)

Not sure how you calculate a unit, but just for comparison, my University (University of Ottawa) offered most courses as 3 credits, courses with labs like chemistry were 4 credits. Standard course load in engineering was about 6 courses, usually at least 2 of which were 4 credits. So that's about 20 credits a semester. I knew people taking double degree programmes who would have 7 courses per semester. The arts students all thought we were crazy, as they did 5 courses, and had no labs, making a total of 15 credits.

Re:Community college, anyone? (4, Informative)

AmigaMMC (1103025) | about 5 years ago | (#29324243)

I took 18 credits per semester and graduated in 3.5 years with 3.7 GPA and honors in a private university. I also had 3 jobs. School is really not that hard in the States. Of course the downside is that it cost me a crapload of money which I'm still paying and forever will.

Re:Community college, anyone? (2, Informative)

armanox (826486) | about 5 years ago | (#29323795)

Lucky you. I did one semester at a local Comunity College. $1200 for tuition and fees, and then another $500 for books.

Re:Community college, anyone? (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#29323803)

What, just because it's on the internet, it's a new concept?

No, actually, that still doesn't make it a new concept [openuniversity.ac.uk] .

Re:Community college, anyone? (3, Informative)

anexkahn (935249) | about 5 years ago | (#29323817)

$20/unit for in state tuition at a community college in California (Where I live). Out of state tuition is currently about $185/unit or $200/unit depending on if you are doing summer classes or other.

Books should average about $250/semester

http://www.cos.edu/view_page.asp?nodeid=2822&parentid=2864&moduleid=1 [cos.edu]

This information is according to the College of the Siskiyous website (Where I went to community college 8 years ago).

Assuming you take 15 units/semester which is what you need to graduate with an associates in 2 years or a bachelors in 4 years that comes out to (approximately):

($20 per unit x 15 units) + $250 books = $550/semester or $1100/year + misc expenses for in state students (subsidized by the state of California)
or
($185 per unit x 15 units) + $250 books =3025 $/semester or $6050/year + misc expenses for out of state students (un-subsidized by the state of California)

This comes out to $275/month for in state students or $756/month for out of state students (8 month school year)

Re:Community college, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29324071)

> $550/semester or $1100/year + misc expenses for in state students

> This comes out to $275/month for in state students

Huh?

Re:Community college, anyone? (1)

wrf3 (314267) | about 5 years ago | (#29323919)

With these price comparisons, are any of the brick-and- mortar costs subsidized by federal, state, or local funds? If so, then unsubsidized costs should be compared.

Re:Community college, anyone? (1)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | about 5 years ago | (#29324007)

At my Uni, they charge mid level state tuition, but tack on over 2500+ dollars worth of "fees", all not including books. Using the GI Bill I was not even able to cover school costs, much less living and school. That's why now I suggest to my siblings (2 are about to go to college) that they first get a two year with a community college that works with the college they really want to go to, and then to transfer. If you graduate from a Uni after transferring from a community college, it doesn't say "Transferee" or "Only spent two years here" its just the same as if you spent that 17k extra on school.

Re:Community college, anyone? (1)

cvd6262 (180823) | about 5 years ago | (#29324135)

Price are higher now, but you're on the right track.

A colleague at a top-tier university called me up with the exciting news that some educational reform theorist from an Ivy League school had just visited to explain the future of higher education. His ideas included getting professional practitioners to teach courses in their field, holding classes on students' schedule, removing many residency restrictions, etc.

Congratulations, I told him, you just discovered the community college.

Re:Community college, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29324263)

Can you tell me where these $300-$400/ semester, all you can "eat" community colleges are in Indiana?

You get what you pay for (1)

hessian (467078) | about 5 years ago | (#29323405)

When $99/month becomes the future of (community) college, then you're going to see people competing for the schools that are desirable enough that they can still charge $30K/year like the Ivies do.

Then again, most people coming out of those aren't going into IT... except as managers.

Re:You get what you pay for (4, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29323577)

To be perfectly honest, most people don't really need a college eduction. The thing is, our society seems to make more and more people take college classes. When people have no real use for the classes, the natural outcome is degree mills and cheaper education. A 2 month on the job training would do better than college for 65% of most jobs.

Re:You get what you pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323603)

I agree with you 47.8% of the time.

Re:You get what you pay for (5, Insightful)

thesandtiger (819476) | about 5 years ago | (#29323811)

Need for work? No.

Potentially benefit massively from in ways completely removed from work? Yes.

More education gives people a more broad experience of the world in that it opens up areas they may not have otherwise been exposed to. Sometimes this is frustrating (witness many /.ers bitching about how they had to take english lit classes when they just wanted to be engineers) and obnoxious, but it helps folks to avoid the tendency to becoming hyperspecialized drones.

A lot of people who were self-taught think that anyone who wants to know about something will just go look it up - but usually these self-taught individuals are completely unaware of huge swaths of ideas and terrain that have been explored because they weren't required to take classes in subjects that initially didn't interest them.

Full disclosure: I was sort of like that myself - I absolutely loathed the idea of certain classes that were just not interesting to me. Then I grew up, and discovered that there's more to conversation than whatever was on TV last night, there's more to life than work and talking about work, and in fact, I've been turned on to many new activities and interests thanks to some of those "useless" classes.

It also wound up having a TREMENDOUS impact on my career: I used to work in tech, and when I went back to school I wound up surveying a couple of psychology courses, and it turns out that the "expreimental design in psychology" course that I took was INCREDIBLY fascinating. Trying to design experiments with human subjects - subjects who can and will lie, try to wreck the experiment, or otherwise do the least amount of work to get their pay - is VERY challenging, VERY interesting, and VERY fun. Even better for me, I was able to bring my technology skills into a field where there is not a lot of technological know-how, and so some incredibly obvious things I developed and implemented wound up being very valuable to my lab, and helped to really accelerate my career; despite coming to the field I now work in so late in my life/career, I've been promoted several times and in the 1.5 years that I've been out of school since getting my new degree, I've been made a director at my lab.

The point to this is that we are not insects, we are not our jobs, and learning new things - even things that are possibly frivolous - is tremendous. EVERYONE in the world can benefit from learning new things, especially the people who don't have the finances to attend more expensive schools; I'll say those people are probably the ones who benefit most from exposure to new ideas and ways of being.

If your college degree is only helping in your job, or if you're going to college solely to get a better job - well, that's certainly your right, but you're really missing out on 90% of what an education can (and IMO, should) be.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | about 5 years ago | (#29323865)

More education gives people a more broad experience of the world...

Maybe you're thinking of an education that was offered in the past, or at a really nice school now. I think the average college education nowadays has much less of this quality than it used to, since a lot of them are morphing into degree mills at varying rates.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 5 years ago | (#29324229)

I think the average college education nowadays has much less of this quality than it used to, since a lot of them are morphing into degree mills at varying rates.

You're right, I think.

I wish I could think of a decent car analogy, but how about a WoW analogy? Think of the off-major required courses as daily quests, except that the college uses them to collect money from you.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29323883)

Sure, but similarly I think I find out way more interesting information on the internet than in classes. How many of us have spent hours on Wikipedia finding out random things they never would have looked at before? Last night I spent a few hours looking at Norse mythology and it was pretty interesting.

Your argument is correct if there wasn't the internet, but since there is, most people don't need college to learn more about the world, its just as easy to hop on Google and find out more interesting information in a few hours than in a semester of lectures by a professor. All for free.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 5 years ago | (#29324171)

Well, before the internet, there was this place called the library. You could go there and learn about anything you wanted. Seriously, just having the information available isn't going to make most people go out and actively learn about it. Most people (not you, not I) wouldn't spend an extra hour learning something they didn't have to, let alone enough time to have a good amount of knowledge in the topic to hold up a good conversation. That's what most people get out of college. You have to take certain courses that aren't in your comfort circle, and that you don't want to learn about to get your degree. So it shows that you can learn about things, even when you don't want to, and that you can commit to finishing something.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 5 years ago | (#29324257)

How many of us have spent hours on Wikipedia finding out random things they never would have looked at before?

I have a investment grade bridge in Yokohama I need to sell. I can give you a really great deal!

Does it matter that I've just edited the Wikipedia entry?

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

Macrat (638047) | about 5 years ago | (#29324281)

Your argument is correct if there wasn't the internet, but since there is, most people don't need college to learn more about the world, its just as easy to hop on Google and find out more interesting information in a few hours than in a semester of lectures by a professor. All for free.

Like how to be a birther

Or how to scream and disrupt town hall meetings.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

SilverJets (131916) | about 5 years ago | (#29324305)

Wow, you are making a really big assumption there...that the information you find on the internet is accurate. Don't trust everything you read, especially from only one source. A college education is not about job training it is about learning how to learn and one of the earliest lessons is to get your facts from more than one source.

Re:You get what you pay for (2, Insightful)

SL Baur (19540) | about 5 years ago | (#29324175)

witness many /.ers bitching about how they had to take english lit classes when they just wanted to be engineers

My beef with lit classes in college is that they are all about kissing the professor's ass. If that's the direction you want to go, more power to you. I love Shakespeare and one of the worst mistakes I ever made in college was taking a Shakespeare class.

Disclaimer: My favorite class in High School was an American lit class with a teacher who loved to teach and inspire students. He certainly inspired me.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

Narpak (961733) | about 5 years ago | (#29324205)

More education gives people a more broad experience of the world in that it opens up areas they may not have otherwise been exposed to. Sometimes this is frustrating (witness many /.ers bitching about how they had to take english lit classes when they just wanted to be engineers) and obnoxious, but it helps folks to avoid the tendency to becoming hyperspecialized drones.

I agree that a wide basic education is a good thing. Exposing people to various ideas and concepts could help broaden their mind and perspective. Though whether or not the current implementation actually work, or if it "helps folks avoid the tendency to become hyperspecialized drones" is hard, if not impossible, to judge. Some no doubt have a positive experience, and some probably don't. Some find new things they like, and some fallout of the educational system all-together because they are unable to pass a course that isn't related to their field of interest. I guess my personal opinion is that the choices should be left into the hands of the student, and not forced upon them; regardless of how good the intention might be.

A lot of people who were self-taught think that anyone who wants to know about something will just go look it up - but usually these self-taught individuals are completely unaware of huge swaths of ideas and terrain that have been explored because they weren't required to take classes in subjects that initially didn't interest them.

Speculation and conjecture.

...it turns out that the "expreimental design in psychology" course that I took was INCREDIBLY fascinating

I would agree that a side course in some sort of psychology can be very helpful in any career (and perhaps life in general); if passed and understood.

EVERYONE in the world can benefit from learning new things.

Agreed.

If your college degree is only helping in your job, or if you're going to college solely to get a better job - well, that's certainly your right, but you're really missing out on 90% of what an education can (and IMO, should) be.

I guess at the end of the day I am very much in favour of choice and freedom. Dictating to others how they should learn, what they should learn, and how they should learn it; is something that could, in my view, hamper if not out right destroy a persons enjoyment and interest in a particular field or course. Let people decide for themselves what they want to learn and why. If something should be mandatory it could be lectures presenting students to their choices of study and possible career-paths, and give them access to people working, or teachers lecturing, in those fields; then let them decide for themselves.

Re:You get what you pay for (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | about 5 years ago | (#29323869)

To be perfectly honest, most people don't really need a college eduction. The thing is, our society seems to make more and more people take college classes. When people have no real use for the classes, the natural outcome is degree mills and cheaper education.

I think another part of the problem is it turns the rest of education into "college preparation" instead of real education. Right now, I'm almost inclined to say we want everyone to go to college, but the reason for that being that education all the way up through high school isn't much of an education. We've lowered our standards so far that we consider the ideal high school kid one who behaves himself, and we don't give any kind of vocational training or responsibility until after college. And then we can't seem to decide whether college is vocational training or real education.

I really think we need to step back and reinvent out public education by asking, "What is it that we want people to learn, and what knowledge and skills do we want the least educated in our society to have." No, I don't think that's what we're doing now. I think we're pretty well running our education system on inertia alone. But once we get good at making sure everyone knows whatever we consider the "base minimum," we can split off those who *want* to pursue further education from those who would prefer vocational training for a good job that's useful to society.

Not everyone needs to go to college, but we're better off if everyone has a decent education. Ignorance isn't good for anyone.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29323915)

I think another part of the problem is it turns the rest of education into "college preparation" instead of real education. Right now, I'm almost inclined to say we want everyone to go to college, but the reason for that being that education all the way up through high school isn't much of an education. We've lowered our standards so far that we consider the ideal high school kid one who behaves himself, and we don't give any kind of vocational training or responsibility until after college. And then we can't seem to decide whether college is vocational training or real education.

Exactly, they don't teach more than the fundamentals. While without a doubt most kids learn more in school most of it is useless to their lives. I've noticed it especially with the decline of shop and industrial classes vs "academic" classes, when I was in high school you pretty much had two choices, either take all lower classes and go to shop and industrial classes or take "academic" classes that were strongly suggested if you were to ever go to college. In general the shop classes were scheduled during college-level classes so people couldn't take both. However aside from college English lowering my tuition so I had less debt (it was a lot cheaper per credit hour to take it in high school), the shop class would have helped me far more in my life. And no, I don't really work with my hands much, but still, the instruction would have been very valuable simply to live my life.

Not everyone needs to go to college, but we're better off if everyone has a decent education. Ignorance isn't good for anyone.

Which is why we need to have more critical thinking. A well-informed citizen doesn't know everything, but they know where to get it if they do.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

rainmaestro (996549) | about 5 years ago | (#29324289)

True story:

When I was in high school (graduated '02), I took a whole slew of AP courses. Now, the AP exams to determine college credit were taken about a month before the year ended.

After the AP exams, teaching *stopped*. My AP Physics teacher brought in an N64 and we spent the rest of the semester playing Super Smash Brothers. My AP English 2 teacher spent the last month grading freshman papers (and reading aloud the really awful ones) while we sat around playing poker (he even joined us a few times). AP Comp Sci? We played UT on a server we'd secretly installed on one of the research lab machines (I happened to know that one of the domain admin passwords was 030997, so we could do pretty much anything we wanted).

I only had one AP class that did anything after the AP exam (AP Calc), and that just consisted of a review of the material already taught.

Once they did what was required for us to take the AP exam, there was no incentive to go any further.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

Narpak (961733) | about 5 years ago | (#29324069)

To be perfectly honest, most people don't really need a college eduction. The thing is, our society seems to make more and more people take college classes. When people have no real use for the classes, the natural outcome is degree mills and cheaper education. A 2 month on the job training would do better than college for 65% of most jobs.

Agreed. At the end of the day what is important is that the individual in question knows what is needed for the job at hand, and some way of showing that to prospective employers. How they acquire that knowledge is really secondary.

Now I would agree that Universities does have their place in a versatile and comprehensive educational system, but they are not the only way to a "higher education" and for some the University experience can quickly get sidetracked by non-educational activities. Though I am not going to judge whether that is good or bad, probably both; depending upon the person in question.

Online courses, interactive educational tools, growing databases/webservices with lectures and instructions on video, audio and/or eBooks have their place as well. These things help make knowledge available to more people at a lower cost than previously possible. And as I said, that you have the necessary knowledge, and in some cases experience, to get an entry level job is what is important; not that you got that knowledge through a University.

Re:You get what you pay for (1, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | about 5 years ago | (#29324103)

To be perfectly honest, most people don't really need a college eduction.

That really depends on how you define "need". Most people may not need college to do their job but we have a crying need for a better educated populace. Education pays dividends in a lot of ways that aren't immediately related to someone doing a specific job.

College was the best thing I ever did for my mind. I had to read books I wouldn't have picked up on my own, had to understand points of view that I didn't necessarily agree with and learned to be skeptical of common knowledge and to trust the data. Not everything I learned was useful later, but the knowing is invaluable. Scientific method, statistics, chemistry, history...all had lessons that more than justified the cost of admission. If it were up to me I'd let anyone take as many classes as they wanted. Instead we're spending our collective treasure on supporting 12 aircraft carrier groups so we can maintain military bases in the butt crack of civilization because so many in the uneducated fraction of society feel entitled to drive an SUV the size of a Bangladesh apartment.

Besides, without college I would have missed the lesson in biochemistry and science of attraction I got from a lab partner who was one of the hottest women on campus. She'd wear nylon shorts and half tops (back in the day you could dress like that on campus) and come in from the heat with a hint of perspiration mixed with a dab of Obsession perfume. That alone was worth a semesters tuition.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

BryanL (93656) | about 5 years ago | (#29324255)

I would respectfully disagree. There is a school of thought that says that schooling (college) exists to make people more marketable, productive (job wise), and skilled. I liken that to the mindset that corporate research & development needs to be directed at the bottom line. The problem is that basic scientific research is still necessary for long term R&D.

Likewise, people are not just cogs in a corporate machine. Yes, people need to be more skilled, productive and marketable. But a broader, more liberal (in the general term, not the political term) education helps people to be better citizens, mentors and basic human beings.College is not necessary for that, but the strength of college is getting people together to learn together and challenge their assumptions and biases.

As a side note, I notice that most of the people that I know that are anti-college have never been, or only attended a semester of community college. I don't know what all this means, but I think there might be two things happening. One, people that are anti-college feel that colleges are elitist cliques and see themselves as outsiders that will never (by choice or circumstance) never fit in. Second, I think they might be projecting their high-school experience onto college. My high-school and college experiences were so different from each other, but I still hear people say how they hated college because it was just an extension of high-school.

Enough rambling. Others may feel different, but I think college is worthwhile, even if it just to get an AA in general education. Ultimately, it can affect the bottom line of the more than the 65% of the jobs that don't NEED a college degree to perform their basic tasks.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

Zaph0dB (971927) | about 5 years ago | (#29324259)

College education is not only about "depth", it's also about "width'. You get to taste more things that you would if you'd have only your "2 month on job training".

Re:You get what you pay for (2, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about 5 years ago | (#29323609)

you're going to see people competing for the schools that are desirable enough that they can still charge $30K/year like the Ivies do.

You miss the point. This doesn't mean getting a degree from the University of Phoenix... You take the fluffy liberal arts prereqs of which most universities require a good two years' worth, then get your actual degree from the Ivy.

And I have no problem with that, as long as they actually uphold some decent academic standards rather than just passing any moron who can pony up a C note. Personally, I did something not all that dissimilar - I went to a community college for a liberal arts AA for $800 per semester, then transferred into a decent 4-year as a Junior. Dropped the total cost of my education by about 45%, and I have the same papers as those who paid the full 4-year tuition.

Re:You get what you pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323973)

Certification test anyone ...

  I think this will be the end result.

Education shouldn't be for profit anyway (2)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29323407)

Now go ahead and wonder why smart but poor students need to sell their future to get a chance for a decent life.

Re:Education shouldn't be for profit anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323509)

From what I can tell, it isn't for profit. Brown, for example, charges ridiculous amounts (like $40-50k a year per student), but they still need grants and donations from alumni to stay financially feasible. Then again, Brown is the one complaining about the lack of money, so we have to take what they say with a grain of salt.

Re:Education shouldn't be for profit anyway (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#29323631)

The thing to remember about absurd tuition is that it is, in effect, more a means of price discrimination, rather than an actual sticker price.

The system is pretty clever: Everybody cranks their rates through the roof; but they all offer "financial aid". Because they are such nice guys, they even have a standardized form(de facto, the FAFSA qualifies). By doing so, the schools can have a sky-high price for cost insensitive students(ie. cost insensitive families) and charge pretty much everyone exactly as much as they can. Even better, doing it this way allows them some pricing flexibility on their side, in case they want to attract a particularly interesting student, while also creating broadly fixed prices, which works to the advantage of the more prestigious and deep pocketed schools.

Really quite clever.

Re:Education shouldn't be for profit anyway (2, Insightful)

j_166 (1178463) | about 5 years ago | (#29324063)

Oh yeah, that's definitely the explanation. Tuition is high because the president of the college sits around in his office all day and lights his cuban cigars with rolls of hundred dollar bills, while wearing a tophat and monocle and scheming how to bilk the hapless freshman.

It couldn't possibly be that the cost of maintaining a university as a dedicated place of learning is just naturally expensive, what with the hundreds of content experts they employ and the hundreds of buildings they maintain. And it definitely is not linked in any way to publicly funded institutions having their appropriations from the state yanked back to pre-1993 levels.

Re:Education shouldn't be for profit anyway (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 5 years ago | (#29324251)

Software companies do this too. You can usually get a student license (sometimes equivalent to regular one) for very low cost, sometimes free. While everyone else is required to pay higher prices. I mean, check out Windows. Most business users probably only require the stuff in the home edition. Except for being able to connect to a domain. Just for the privilege of connecting to a domain, you have to buy the professional (in XP), or business (in Vista) edition. That usually doubles the price. So, they know businesses have more money to spend, and that they will spend the money, so they charge them much more even if they only get minimally more out of it. Almost all software packages offer this in some level or another. Visual Studio Standard probably has 90% of the features needed by most developers, and costs about $250. The professional version has everything, and costs $550. Then there's the team suite edition, which costs a couple thousand dollars, and has everything including the kitchen sink, but you probably don't even need any of the extra stuff it includes. For more about this, read Camels and rubber duckies [joelonsoftware.com] by Joel Spolsky.

Re:Education shouldn't be for profit anyway (2, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 5 years ago | (#29323899)

With college and health care, corporations have developed a really nice system of voluntary slavery.

IT is the worst- 200+ people at my company are working on a project with such insane deadlines that they are working 10 hours a day- then going home and working 2 hours off the clock.

And they are *happy* to be on this project. They are going to give up three years of their youthful lives. There is no bonus at the end for them-- there will be for the departmental president (and likely promotion to the executive branch).

You never feel, taste, spell things as intensely once you get old. Young people give up the best years of their lives for nothing. Because it only takes a couple years without a job to wipe out everything you have.

Productivity has increased by 20x since the 1950's. Yet now 2 people have to work instead of one. And they both still have to work 40-50 hour weeks.

Re:Education shouldn't be for profit anyway (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 5 years ago | (#29324311)

It isn't for profit. When I entered Caltech in 1980, endowment was approximately $1M per student. They didn't have any need to charge us any tuition at all.

I was told point blank by the financial aid person that tuition rates were set to keep pace with Stanford and Harvard so parents wouldn't think it was a two-bit school.

Won't take over top schools... (3, Insightful)

xkcdFan1011011101111 (1494551) | about 5 years ago | (#29323459)

This type of system will never dominate the top engineering/science schools. The key to a top notch eng/sci school is extremely knowledgeable faculty that know how to teach and know what material/projects are important for students. Maybe that's why this StraighterLine company focuses mostly on freshman courses...

Re:Won't take over top schools... (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#29323701)

It seems like the two are really complementary.

There are plenty of subjects that are necessary for the study of advanced science or engineering(or advanced topics in the humanities for that matter) that do not themselves require an especially high caliber of teaching. Downright bad teaching isn't good enough; but the difference between decent and brilliant isn't huge.

Taking those courses at a top school is a waste. Of money, sure; but also of time. You pretty much get a finite number of course slots during your college time. If you are at a good school, every course spent going through calc 3 with a grad student is a course not spent going through some advanced topic with an expert in the field.

If a system like this could be used to cheaply and efficiently teach post-high school, but essentially standardized, prerequisite courses, you could then focus on taking only the courses that excellent schools have the greatest comparative advantage in. Not a wildly new concept; basically just the "first year or two, community college, transfer after that" strategy; but with more internet.

If all you want to do is learn (5, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 years ago | (#29323715)

If all you want to do is learn for free, you can always watch lectures online.

http://www.youtube.com/user/MIT [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/user/stanforduniversity [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/user/ucberkeley [youtube.com]

You can even get lectures from Australia or India:
http://www.youtube.com/user/unsw [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/user/nptelhrd [youtube.com]

And if you want to learn stuff like how to solder and splice try http://www.tpub.com/neets/ [tpub.com]

Or watch someone make vacuum tubes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl-QMuUQhVM [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9S5OwqOXen8 [youtube.com]

Sure you might not be able to afford all that equipment to actually do everything. But at least you have a better idea of what you might like and what's worth it before forking out lots of money (or going in debt) in fees.

Re:Won't take over top schools... (1)

nametaken (610866) | about 5 years ago | (#29323747)

Nothing wrong with that. It's the many thousands that schools gouge for gen ed courses that pissed me off. 100 people in a class with no real resources, listening to a completely disinterested, borderline faceless instructor? NOT WORTH IT.

I ended up switching to a great community college where the instructors, facilities and resources were FAR better. I learned more there than anywhere I've ever gone. Then I transferred to uni for classes specific to my major for the higher end instructors in the field and so I could put the school on my resume.

Re:Won't take over top schools... (3, Insightful)

Frequency Domain (601421) | about 5 years ago | (#29323767)

This type of system will never dominate the top engineering/science schools. The key to a top notch eng/sci school is extremely knowledgeable faculty that know how to teach and know what material/projects are important for students. Maybe that's why this StraighterLine company focuses mostly on freshman courses...

I agree completely. It has always been possible to get almost all of the material found in a typical undergrad curriculum from your public library, and there have always been people who have done so. So why doesn't everybody get educated that way? Because most of us need the guidance and structure provided by a curriculum, not to mention the dedicated blocks of time that you have to carve out of your life if you're not a full time student. There's also the trusted agent certification aspect. Schools with top reputations still produce some duds, but there's a reason people value an education from Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Berkeley, MIT,... As you move into the top tiers of schools, the ratio of duds to doers declines. (How's that for alliteration?)

Re:Won't take over top schools... (1)

j_166 (1178463) | about 5 years ago | (#29323985)

Exactly. Schools don't sell content. They sell perspective on content. Almost any knowledge taught at any university is more or less publicly available if you know where and how to look. The questions are a.) which knowledge do you study, b.) what do you do with that knowledge, how do you separate the important bits out, and c.) how do we (everybody who you tell that you have a degree in X) know that what you learned is correct?

I think that this model can work for some people who naturally do better in self study, but I think the market for those people is much smaller than everybody realizes. Places like straighterline may succeed in their niche, but this is not ever going to replace the traditional university.

For the assessment piece alone, people who self study have a special problem that is much less prevalent in traditional institutions: People who don't have experience in a topic tend not to know if what they are doing to study it is correct, and that the learning outcome is correct. The learning outcome can be clouded by everything from lack of experience to misunderstanding a key concept to letting your beliefs about intelligent design and or the flying spaghetti monster get in the way. To work around this, assessment is key, and assessment across institutions is not easy, which is why it doesn't surprise me that your options to transfer credits from straighterline are somewhat limited.

Its also worth noting that MIT has had alot of its course materials online for years, completely for free. The only real difference is that you don't get credit for using MIT's stuff, but the same principles apply: you can use their stuff to do the grunt work cheaply and then maximize your time on the

Re:Won't take over top schools... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323945)

Intro Algebra
College Algebra
Precalc

Those aren't freshman courses, they are freshman remedial courses.

It's more than courses. (3, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#29323505)

It's the friendships and connections you make there that really matter. Any idiot can memorise equations. Any fool can jump through a hoop. But work on a team project and make a connectionï, make friends that can help you later, and people you can help later - THAT'S why people spend stupid amounts of money on an Ivy League education. "What you know" is assumed. "Who you know" is particular and requires access.

As a consequence, such an "education" as described in TFA is more a training system, the reproduction of the proletariat, not an education, not a method of making connection.

RS

Re:It's more than courses. (4, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 5 years ago | (#29323619)

The fact that the people running the companies that make up most of the economy are chosen based on who they know despite their lack of ability to find their ass with both hands and a map is a large part of the reason that the global economy is melting down right now.

Re:It's more than courses. (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 5 years ago | (#29323687)

But work on a team project and make a connection, make friends that can help you later, and people you can help later

You know what I learned from "team" projects in college?

Just do the whole damned thing yourself if you want any shot at passing. Because otherwise, come the due date you'll have your part done, one person with a partially-working-but-incompatible part, and three people with weak excuses.

I learned that "team" really does have a "me" in it, and you can't spell much with "ta". And, after 10 years in the "real" working world, I haven't found much to change my opinion on that matter.



THAT'S why people spend stupid amounts of money on an Ivy League education. "What you know" is assumed. "Who you know" is particular and requires access.

One small correction there - In the case of Ivies, "Who you know" counts as a prerequisite for getting in, not a benefit of going there.

Re:It's more than courses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323933)

Your group system must have sucked. We had complete liberty to kick members out of the group, who would of course automatically fail the class. That was a pretty strong motivator to keep up.

Re:It's more than courses. (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | about 5 years ago | (#29323959)

You know what I learned from "team" projects in college?

Just do the whole damned thing yourself if you want any shot at passing.

Dear gods, yes. The only time I didn't have to do that was when I was in a class with a co-worker that was as interested as I was in learning something and passing the class. The rest of the time it was amusing to watch other people try to walk the "how little can I do" line.

Re:It's more than courses. (1)

hermitville (1519269) | about 5 years ago | (#29324029)

You know what I learned from "team" projects in college?

The point is not to get the best grade in the class. The point is to learn how to work together with people so that you can accomplish greater things than any of you could have done by yourself. When you learn that, you will not only pass, but you'll be in the running for the best grade in the class, without even trying.

You can usually get by in the world if you macho through everything by yourself. You can excel in the world when you learn how to work with people.

Hermit

It's not an issue of working with people (1)

phorm (591458) | about 5 years ago | (#29324183)

I've seen plenty of teams where many of the members were willing, but the skill/effort level was - to say the least - weak (or lopsided). There were some cases where the weaker-skilled members WANT to learn, and benefited from the skills/knowledge of the others, but plenty of other times where there was a team member of two who simply did not give a shit.

Now perhaps this does reflect the real-world in that getting saddled with a semi-useless team-member can often happen, but it also encourages the lazy ones to develop habits where they latch on to skilled workers, do little, and take as much credit as they can. I highly doubt teachers are unaware of this, as often they like to mix these individuals with the more skilled workers, but it would make sense if the grades reflected this rather than giving the lazies a free pass.

I've had team members of many calibers. Brilliant workers who also excel in teams are - of course - quite rare, but are a real treat to work with.
I've had some team-mates who were simply under-skilled/under-taught, in which case they actually became very helpful when brought up to speed. I can even drop my ego enough to admit I've been there myself, learning new tricks/skills from somebody in the group who knew more about X than I did.
I've also had team members who simply couldn't seem to grasp the material at hand despite strong effort. The best solution in that case was to funnel them to whatever tasks they could manage best, and leave them off the core work but hope to help them understand it as best they could. Y
ou also get lone-wolves that can't seem to work well in groups. You can usually do well with them if you can set them to something tasking but requiring minimal interaction.
The last two categories are the voluntarily-useless and the credit-takers. The most frustrating part is that they're often quite clever, but can in no way be motivated to learn or attend to the task at hand, and would rather show up hung-over from weekend partying while everyone else was burning the weekend-oil. Thus far the best approach I've seen to this was to have the other team members document and account for their own tasks as well as possible to avoid the credit-stealing aspect, and then treat the rest as "damage control"

Re:It's more than courses. (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 5 years ago | (#29324211)

The point is not to get the best grade in the class.

Nor did I ever deliberately try for that particular goal (though I won't pretend I didn't usually define the top of the grading curve). Didn't even graduate with a 4.0, primarily because I don't "suffer fools gladly" and don't play along with the cute little political games.


The point is to learn how to work together with people so that you can accomplish greater things than any of you could have done by yourself.

In the working world, you can sometimes convince your coworkers to at least put in a bit of effort for the sake of their future with the company. In academia? When you have one older gentlemen who really does try but has no clue; one "C is for Credit" point-counter who knows going into the final project that she can blow it off and still pass the course; one brilliant foreign student who could probably do the project in his sleep but can't speak a word of English; one frat-boy who trusts that his "bros" have his back and he'll just pull something from their project archive at the last minute (Hello? Custom project here? Any comprehension at all that you won't find your part of it ready-made?)...

Okay, I exaggerate a bit, in that I didn't have all those people on a single project at the same time. But I did have the joy of working with all of them on group projects at various times. Most teammates simply proved themselves useless in less stereotypical ways, often barely having a grasp of the class prerequisites, nevermind sufficient understanding to help in the least in a final project.


Then again, in fairness, most of my teams probably considered me as some form of (de facto) "project leader from hell", trying to meet insanely unreasonable goals (like actually satisfying all the project requirements) when other groups got by with laughable results. I remember one OO Design class I took, one of the teams literally did... A web site. A static web site. Perhaps a dozen pages. No server-side interaction, no client-side scripting, no dynamic backend data store, just... A web site. And... They... PASSED! Yeah. So, take my ranting as you will. :)

Re:It's more than courses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29324041)

I remember something my first boss told me in relation to group working... "There's no I in team, but there's just one U in cunt."

Re:It's more than courses. (0, Offtopic)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#29324163)

You know what I learned from "team" projects in college? Just do the whole damned thing yourself if you want any shot at passing.

Obviously, when you are in a position of authority, you will know to not hire those people.

I have learned in my working life (I'm 51, and have always had a job since the age of 15) that one does not work in isolation, and the people who do best are people who surround themselves with competent and trusted colleagues: teams, essentially. The team can be: Program director, project manager A, project manager B, project A programmers 1, 2, and 3, project B programmers 1, 2, 3, QA staff 1, 2, 3, Office Admin. - about a dozen people. How did programmer B3 get on the team? Because programmer B1 knew him in university, and knows he does good work. QA dude #2 is there because lead QA 1 was hired by project manager A who was in a school play with QA 1 and knows what kind of a critical mind he has.

It goes on from there.

Your critique, while interesting, and certainly valuable, is far off the mark of the Real World. We are a social species and our social administration is always done by people working with people. You can be the lone programmer, but if you need your entry badge renewed, you better be nice to the Admin. You can be the lone programmer, but if you're a dick, you will go from one project to another, and will be consistently passed over by the better connected and more socially adept programmers.

THAT is the real world - it is not one of individuals - it is one of societies of individuals. With humans, it is not the individual who is fittest, but the group that is fittest...

And these groups form at a young age and continue through life. Young people should nurture these relationships and develop tight social networks. It can mean the difference between a daily grind and a worthwhile vocation.

RS

Maybe so... (3, Informative)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 5 years ago | (#29323533)

This may be credits for cheap. You may be learning (nearly) as much as a regular university and you may even do it faster. BUT I didn't think that was the purpose of university. I thought the whole point was to get a high paying job. And I'm unconvinced that this can provide.

If you just wanted to go to school to learn sure. But I don't think that has been the main focus for many years now.

Re:Maybe so... (4, Funny)

ciaohound (118419) | about 5 years ago | (#29323789)

I thought the whole point was to get a high paying job.

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Liberal Arts students suddenly cried out in horror.

Re:Maybe so... (2, Insightful)

An dochasac (591582) | about 5 years ago | (#29324227)

As a science major, I felt a great disturbance in the force when Reaganomics shifted universities from learning and R&D institutions into glorified trade schools. The engineering and computer science programs were particularly overwhelmed by students whose talents and interests were elsewhere but whose counselors and student debt demanded that they get a degree in what's hot at the moment. A few years later it was MBA and we got a glut of substandard MBAs, then it was Law and I don't know what's next, but I don't think it serves any of us for students to ignore their talent and to have their focus driven, not by their personal aspirations or talent, but by the whims of the stock market their freshman year.

The same goes for basic scientific research. For the most part, in the U.S. funds for basic research is dried up. R&D instead is funded by those with a vested interest in getting the answer they want. "X- drug is safe and effective", "Tobacco is harmless", "Toxic waste is good for you."

IMHO U.S. university focus on the bottom line has turned them into trade-schools, ponzi schemes and country clubs. The fact that the price of university education has risen FAR faster than inflation [elliottback.com] convinced me that this is yet another bubble. Kudos to openuniversity and straighter to deflate this bubble before it blows up as spectacularly as dotcom and housing have.

Re:Maybe so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29324113)

I thought the whole point was to get a high paying job. And I'm unconvinced that this can provide.

I kinda of agree because there is something psychological to employers when they hear you went to an "expensive" school. The dollar amount alone implies you cared just that much more about your education than someone else. Really in a fair world advanced education would be as accessible as public education is, but the industries that recruit from those places have an interest in keeping the upper crust from getting too many crumbs in it.

Coming from an expensive college is a way of saying you did something with your life before you actually did, and that momentum that assumption creates is really what gets you hired ahead of others(in the working world), not the application of their education which is likely only similar to someone with a cheaper equivalent degree.

Just one comment on TFA... (2, Funny)

pla (258480) | about 5 years ago | (#29323535)

"Facebook protest".

Your ancestors - Not impressed.

We already have that (1)

stevedmc (1065590) | about 5 years ago | (#29323611)

We already have that and it is called CLEP.

Crass Ambition (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323613)

From the article:

"Smith said that the quality of his education team is high, and their biographies indeed include an Oxford Ph.D...."

In order to demonstrate quality, a reference to the traditional educational model (oxford) is made, and this ploy is nothing more than a tacit admission that traditional education is still the best. Would they ever claim that their faculty includes graduates of StraightLine (or some equivalent) itself?

If a person dreams of an education that is fast, cheap, and easy, that person is simply not fit to be educated. StraighLine, with its crass ambitions, hopes to satisfy the demands of such shiftless people.

Re:Crass Ambition (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 5 years ago | (#29323801)

Either that, or they're saying that this is a way to provide proof that this guy was well educated. If you say "this guy went through a program like ours," nobody's going to think, "oh, this guy knows his stuff," even if he does.

Re:Crass Ambition (1)

flowsnake (1051494) | about 5 years ago | (#29324079)

Even good old Oxford is branching out into online learning [ox.ac.uk] these days; I do not think you would consider them a second-grade diploma mill. Unless you are one of those Cambridge types, of course :)

ad copy much? (1)

fermion (181285) | about 5 years ago | (#29323667)

I have seen blatant advertising in the editorial section /., but this is a new level of inclusion.

The first thing that comes to mind is that this is not bucking the system, or at least not the system of traditional college education. Rather, this is bucking the more recent trend of exorbitant prices for sheets of paper, not even sheep skin, where what the student has learned is perhaps of little or no consequence. To be frank, compared to what the University of Phoenix of Walden charges, this may be a steal.

I did not read the links, but the ad copy stated that the college provides freshman credits, which implies that the credits can be transfered to another university. I am sure the ad is not lying, and the implied transfer of credits can happen, Universities do not have to accept transfer credit. I do not know if they offer degrees, but again, employers do not have accept degrees from all universities as equal. Therefore there may be value there in cost effective remedial courses, but time will only tell if the college provides educational value.

Of course, if we are optimistic there is no reason why it should not. For instance, at $100 a month, a semester is around $500. For community colleges, one might be able to get 6 hours for not much more than that. A full load would cost up to four times that much. That, however, pays for a lot of brick and motor, a lot of face to face time with professors, and perhaps way too much administration. It seems that someone could harness the efficiencies and supply a decent alternative at a 25% saving. I am just not sure why anyone would, at least in terms of a for profit corporation.

In any case, like all education, it is buyer beware. Verify that the credits are transferable. Watch for other fees that at some places can double the cost. If there are degree programs, are they what one needs. The big thing lately are they pushing financial aid and loans. Some places seem to solely exist to get kids to take out loans to pay tuition, without providing any credible product in return. This is an issue because, unlike other loans, there is often no way to shed college financial aid, short of paying off every penny of the principe, interest, and fees.

The two tasks of educators (4, Insightful)

lexDysic (542023) | about 5 years ago | (#29323693)

As a professor, I have two tasks that I must perform in every class I teach. I must educate my students, and I must evaluate their work. No one has ever explained to me how the 'evaluation' process can reasonably work in an on-line setting. Nothing is stopping me from enrolling my girlfriend's cat in an on-line degree program and taking all his tests. I assure you, Marvin's grades will be very good, but I don't suggest you hire him; he would be sleeping on the job an awful lot.

It's a shame, because I think that for many students, these kinds of programs could provide an education as good or better than a traditional classroom for a much lower price. But until there is a good reason to take the final transcript seriously, I don't think it will ever really catch on.

Re:The two tasks of educators (1)

pjt33 (739471) | about 5 years ago | (#29323911)

Marking essays remotely should be straightforward enough, and allows a student who isn't cheating to get some idea of how they're doing. Then bring them in for two days to sit down in front of an invigilator and take exams which count for most or all of the credit.

I think that's how it was supposed to work with the distance learning course I enrolled in a few years back, but they didn't seem to have the concept of administration. When I failed to get the mark back for my first essay, and repeated e-mails hadn't given me any response as to what was going to happen about a seminar which I presume they cancelled (although they didn't inform me of that either!) I gave up.

Re:The two tasks of educators (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323929)

I have degrees from the "best" schools on the planet: US East and West Coasts and in the UK. I won't mention any schools (just to perpetuate the myth their brands convey). The sad truth is that my professors a) viewed teaching as a horrible collateral duty (as indeed do I) and b) seldom evaluated my work themselves -- this was mostly done by under-trained graduate students (I became part of this serfdom myself in later years). It is what it is -- I'm not judging the system, but most colleges are not in the business of educating -- they are in the business of supporting a system whose primary purpose is not education. In my opinion the typical undergraduate education could easily be accomplished by a series of WebExes, updated every five years.

Re:The two tasks of educators (1)

goodmanj (234846) | about 5 years ago | (#29323939)

I agree absolutely. A diploma is not a piece of paper you paid $100,000 (or whatever) for: it's a guarantee by the college that you have mastered certain skills which employers find useful.

If a college cannot believably make that guarantee, they shouldn't be offering degrees, and shouldn't be accredited.

In short:
online courseware + diploma mill =/= college.

Re:The two tasks of educators (1)

wrf3 (314267) | about 5 years ago | (#29323955)

I don't expect you to do my job for me. I've had too many job applicants from prestigious universities whose degree was no indication of their knowledge. If I end up hiring a "cat", I'm capable of firing the same.

Re:The two tasks of educators (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#29323957)

Nothing is stopping me from enrolling my girlfriend's cat in an on-line degree program and taking all his tests.

The same is true of physical universities. There have been a few cases recently where wealthy South-East Asian families have sent someone else to university in their son's place. The surrogate has attended the lectures and sat the exams. Even if the lecturer comes to the exam, he still won't be able to say 'you're not the correct student' (even if he does recognise his students) because the person sitting the exam is the one who was in the classes. At the end, someone gets a degree without ever having been to university.

If you're wondering why the person you hired doesn't seem to have the most basic understanding of the subject, then it may be because the person who actually did their degree is working in McDonalds because he can't get hired for a skilled job without a degree...

Over time, I expect the assessment part of a university to dwindle. If you look at companies like Google or Microsoft, they don't hire based on your qualifications at all. They regard them as simple ticks in boxes, and hire based on the results of a day-long (or longer for some companies) assessment.

Re:The two tasks of educators (1)

goodmanj (234846) | about 5 years ago | (#29323963)

Oh, and lexDysic: please, do try to get Marvin an online degree. Seriously. It's a pretty labor-intensive stunt, but it'd probably get national news recognition, and would prove your point way better than a thousand posts to Slashdot.

Re:The two tasks of educators (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323971)

Many schools require formal testing under supervision at a specific location when taking online courses. This is similar to taking the GRE.

Re:The two tasks of educators (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29324023)

I've taken a few online classes. Where there were tests involved I had to secure a proctor to watch over me as I took the test. Granted, I could have used a friend for the proctor and cheated pretty easily.

In many of the other classes, there was a greater emphasis on projects, where you needed to understand the subject matter enough to turn in your work.

Re:The two tasks of educators (2, Insightful)

brian_tanner (1022773) | about 5 years ago | (#29324043)

It's not necessarily as hard as it sounds to evaluate people online. I took a course in computer networks from an online university in Canada. I had some programming projects and assignments to do, but they were not worth much (like a typical CS class). Those, yes, I could have faked easily with the help of others if I needed.

However, the final exam was worth about 75% of my final grade, and I had to take that exam under supervision at my university. I'm sure there are other testing facilities that could also be used. A proctor (an assistant professor in my case) supervised the 3 hour exam. Seems pretty secure to me.

Some related advice: just take the damn class at your university even if everyone complains how much it sucks. I took networks through correspondence because of a terrible prof that I was avoiding. My final exam was made up of randomly selected questions from 2 entire textbooks and was much harder than the networks course offered through my department.

"Challenging" courses (1)

phorm (591458) | about 5 years ago | (#29324207)

Could it allow one to "challenge" courses as a more accredited college/university? One might end up having to re-take various courses but it could be useful for a head-start.

Do what is done for Tech Cert Exams (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29324273)

For exams, do what is done for Technical Certification Exams: Have the student take the exam at a proctored facility, like Prometric (http://www.prometric.com/default.htm). Anyway, Computer based courses at the University level are really not new. In 1977, I took introductory Logic using video terminals (I believe they used PLATO). We could learn the coursework and take our tests via CBT. We could also attend lectures with about 700+ fellow students. Most just took the CBTs

Subsidies, accountability, running like a business (3, Insightful)

ciaohound (118419) | about 5 years ago | (#29323699)

It's not just freshman classes that subsidize the more expensive offerings. Humanities courses cost less than sciences but are billed at the same rate, so English departments subsidize more costly departments. The people in these institutions are uncomfortable talking about who subsidizes whom [nytimes.com] . In business, the criterion is simple: make your unit profitable or it dies. Colleges have been unwilling to live by that. As a result, programs aren't cut and tuition only goes up. But as we know, unsustainable trends cannot be sustained indefinitely. The brightest minds no doubt will continue to get free rides to places like Harvard, but I suspect that some other bright minds are at work on creative ways to get tuition within reach for those who have to pay their own way.

Re:Subsidies, accountability, running like a busin (1)

ahankinson (1249646) | about 5 years ago | (#29324119)

While it's true that English departments cost less to run than, say, a chemistry department, there are generally larger grants and scholarships available to science departments to offset their costs. The fixed costs, such as professor salaries and department administration, would be about the same across like-sized departments.

I disagree with your assertion that a unit needs to be profitable to exist. There are many worthwhile pursuits that often fall under the radar of popularity, and thus profitability. To axe, say, the philosophy, languages or forestry departments would be doing a disservice to the society as a whole. Research isn't about what is profitable *now,* it's about trying to figure out what might be useful for society in the future. That's an expensive task that's littered with more failures than successes, but the successes need the failures. It's like trying to find a single door in a very large room blindfolded. You're going to bump in to more walls than you are the door, but that's all part of the process.

If there was a magic wand that we could wave that would show us only the most efficient and profitable ways forward, you could be sure it would be used. The reality is, however, that we don't know what research will bring us from one moment to the next. Did we know that research into computer networks in the 50's & 60's would eventually allow us to converse across distances like this? Of course not, but we're glad it did.

Re:Subsidies, accountability, running like a busin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29324197)

At a university, if your science faculty is not self-sufficient then you should get to hiring new ones. All the real labs at a university (the ones that do research, not teach freshmen) are grant supported, but before the lab gets that grant the university takes between 50-60% off the top. More than enough to pay for the small amount of consumables you go through in an intro science lab.

It's of course different for a teaching college if your science faculty is doing no research, but that is fairly rare in america. I would hope the guy from the linked article knows his school's stats, but most college students in the US have science classes that are subsidized by the science faculty's work, not by english majors.

for the uk people: usa gets cheap open university (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323729)

sounds a lot like the open university course idea they have in the uk, maybe its diff in the details but the key problem will be the same, it won't count as much in the eyes of the employers (just my 2c)

Profitable? (2, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | about 5 years ago | (#29323793)

I wasn't aware that Colleges and Universities were for-profit driven businesses. I just don't accept the premise that "freshmen lecture" is driven by profit motive.

Degree mills and correspondence schools aren't really anything new. Online education isn't really either. I remember 25 years ago QuantumLink (the predecessor to AOL) had an online university program. At the time I was a dumb kid and thought the same thing the author of this article thought. 25 years later it didn't change the entire landscape of education, and neither will this. Whiz-bang technology might make some parts of education easier, but the distance aspect of online education is always going to make things more difficult.

Also, like it or not there's a HUGE component of education that's simply driven by the name and reputation of the school you went to. How many people really want to proudly say they went and graduated from the $99 online school? As others have pointed out we already have a 2nd tier of education with Junior colleges. I certainly wouldn't want to start comparing the actual quality level of one vs. the other, but what I DO question is whether there's really a need for a 3rd tier of these Walmart schools (low low prices!).

Eleven courses (2, Informative)

honestmonkey (819408) | about 5 years ago | (#29323841)

As near as I could see from their web site, they offer 11 courses, one or two of which were "pending". Might be a deal if you need some of those 11, but you aren't getting a degree that way.

and 4(!) partner colleges (2, Informative)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | about 5 years ago | (#29324223)

After you take to your up to eleven courses, you can get credit for them at a total of four accredited institutions. I didn't look closely, but at least one of them is a junior college. So this "revolution" that Slashdot is reporting on, only is only relevant to a very small percent of the population.

epQ.?! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29323969)

Keggers for one? In front of a computer? (1)

EWAdams (953502) | about 5 years ago | (#29324201)

An online education is an education of sorts, but it's not a college education unless you go to a college.

Forget "who you meet" and "the contacts you'll make." Nobody gives a rat's ass about that garbage unless they're "damn glad to meetcha" econ scum headed to business school. Nobody I met in college has anything to do with my current career.

The big problem with online higher education is that you can't have a decent frat party by yourself and the sex is really inferior.

Sleep Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29324237)

$99 a month? Shoot! I can beat that price easily.

By placing a small speaker under your pillow at night and playing a recording of a nice lecture on Economics, Psychology, Political Science, etc., you can learn effectively while you sleep. There will be no more rushing to class or waiting in long lines for textbooks.

If I can persuade a few colleges and universities to accept these sleep learning credits, then who can stop me?

Let me assure you, for many students, the lasting difference between a sleep learning session and actual class attendance would be very slight.

Sounds fishy (2, Insightful)

SilverJets (131916) | about 5 years ago | (#29324275)

From the StraighterLine web site:

When you take a StraighterLine course you will select one of our Partner Colleges to award credit for the course. You can continue your major studies and pursue your degree through this college or transfer those credits to your college of choice.

The important part they are leaving out is that the "college of your choice" does not have to accept the transfer credits.

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