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Forget University — Use the Web For Education, Says Gates

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the school-two-point-oh dept.

Education 393

An anonymous reader writes "Bill Gates attended the Techonomy conference earlier this week, and had quite a bold statement to make about the future of education. He believes the Web is where people will be learning within a few years, not colleges and university. During his chat, he said, 'Five years from now on the web for free you'll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.'" Of course, the efficacy of online learning is still in question; some studies have shown a measurable benefit to being physically present in a classroom. Still, online education can clearly reach a much wider range of students. Reader nbauman sent in a related story about MIT's OpenCourseWare, which is finding success in unexpected ways: "50% of visitors self-identified as independent learners unaffiliated with a university." The article also mentions a situation in which a pair of Haitian natives used OCW to get the electrical engineering knowledge they needed to build solar-powered lights that have been deployed in many remote towns and villages.

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The Net is no Substitution for University (5, Insightful)

FreeUser (11483) | about 4 years ago | (#33181358)

While I used to often boast about having learned at least as much on the net as I did in class, the net is no substitution for a formal education. There is value to the structure of coursework, to the demands of learning material and being tested on it, and to requirement to learn to think and apply logic. There is also value in the advise and teaching of professors, as well as the social and academic interaction you have with other students.

The Internet is a wonderful tool, and may become something much greater, but it is certainly no replacement for a university education just yet.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (5, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | about 4 years ago | (#33181484)

Only a small fraction of what people learn at a college is from the lectures. Most of the rest comes from being in actual contact with other people.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (5, Insightful)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 4 years ago | (#33181658)

While I was finishing my Master's I was offered a chance to get a certification in International Affairs through the same university. The caveat was that all of the courses were online. I can honestly say that the classes were basically worthless, the lectures were online, the readings were good, but without physical interaction an entire dimension was missing.

What does physical interaction teach? (1, Interesting)

elucido (870205) | about 4 years ago | (#33181870)

What do you learn from physical interaction with regard to international affairs that you cannot learn from intellectual interaction?

Re:What does physical interaction teach? (3, Funny)

e065c8515d206cb0e190 (1785896) | about 4 years ago | (#33181938)

What does physical interaction teach?

Only on Slashdot...

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (4, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 4 years ago | (#33181814)

Only a small fraction of what people learn at a college is from the lectures. Most of the rest comes from being in actual contact with other people.

Exactly. Gates is confusing information with education. If classroom education could be replaced by non-traditional means; books and VCRs would have done that years ago.

The real value, as you point out, is in the interaction with professors and fellow students. When I was in grad school, the ability to speak to a professor, who was an acknowledged expert in his field, ask questions and bounce ideas off of him were what I really paid for. No amount of web based lectures can replace that as a learning experience.

Instant /msg on your school's IRC server (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33182026)

When I was in grad school, the ability to speak to a professor, who was an acknowledged expert in his field, ask questions and bounce ideas off of him were what I really paid for.

Then your professor can idle on your school's IRC server and do what you paid for over instant /msg.

That learning has nothing to do with the subject. (1)

elucido (870205) | about 4 years ago | (#33181852)

Social skills can be learned anywhere not just in a University setting. Yes it is valuable to learn how to work the system and politic, but it's not like the classroom is the only place to learn it.

Re:That learning has nothing to do with the subjec (3, Insightful)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about 4 years ago | (#33182028)

You don't just learn social skills by interacting with others. Talking through a problem with someone else is often far more effective than trying to solve it on your own. Something you say may trigger an idea in the other person, which then triggers another idea in you, and so on.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181520)

While I used to often boast about having learned at least as much on the net as I did in class, the net is no substitution for a formal education.

I'd say that for a large percentage of classes there's no substitute for meatspace university classes.

As an adult who has two associate degrees (one in IT, one in electronics) and 25 years of hands-on experience, I looked into and enrolled in a state university's online BS in tech management program. I'm five classes out from an undergrad, and while I have picked up some valuable info, it was nothing compared to sitting in the physics lab or having an in-class workshop. Primarily we write a lot of papers, read and write a lot of case studies, and chatter away on a discussion board. Then again, I'm a nerd because I'd much rather talk about applications of the integral rather than organizational leadership techniques so some of this is of my own doing.

I like the immediacy of having a prof right there in the room, and the accountability of proctored exams. As many will tell you with this mode of learning, I can't recall how many times I've carried weak and/or non-performing teammates to avoid having our grade torpedoed since group projects dominate onlne coursework. Before anybody says it, I know that's more about assessment and less about learning.

I'd eventually like to take a class on modern physics. I'd sure as hell want some close interaction for something like that. Watching it on Khan Academy via a Youtubesque window isn't cutting it, nor is watching somebody on MITs site who lost more braincells last night drinking than I had in the first place (so smart they can't teach, so let's pipe it over video with no feedback to magnify the effect).

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (2, Insightful)

morari (1080535) | about 4 years ago | (#33181528)

There is no value in social conditioning and student loan debt.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 4 years ago | (#33181628)

Well, there was, before the American economy went to shit.

Just graduated with a degree in physics? How about 10 bucks an hour [] soldering pads and screwing screws?

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1, Funny)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 4 years ago | (#33181532)

I guess you learnt to spell online, huh?

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1)

DamienRBlack (1165691) | about 4 years ago | (#33181554)

What if you had coursework, tests and requirements online? As far as interaction with other students, what about forums?

Academia = filter (5, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | about 4 years ago | (#33181562)

There is also another important benefit, that is really easy to understand if you just read a few science, and especially healthcare stories on Slashdot. Just reading the associated comments should generally be sufficient to realize how exquisitely important it is to have some sort of a moderating filter of an "academic community" of professionals. Yes it stifles dissent a bit, and yes there are other downsides that aim to preserve status quo. But the penalties we pay for having such a system pale in comparison to the fact that the upcoming professionals are in general guided to the more reliable sources, and are at least partially shielded from the self-important Charybdis of the "internet knowledge".

Yes, he is right - all the information is out there on the Internet... somewhere. But where you need peer review, and a structured learning environment, is for the Sisyphean task of filtering out the noise... and the amount of noise has gone up exponentially with the advent of the internet and the complete absence of barriers to publication. It's easy enough to spend weeks, months, years on the Internet, perusing websites that are dedicated to supporting strictly one's own point of view, and have it become an essential part of one's worldview. That's how we would up with Vaccines/Autism and HIV-doesn't-cause-AIDS crowd.

Furthermore, for all its failures, the academic environment does TEACH the students the skills they will need to acquire to be able to interpret primary data on their own, which is a far more important role, compared to teaching the students facts.

If we let the Internet loose on the population to an even greater extent, I shudder to think of the kind of idiocracy we'll be living in, just one generation from now.

Re:Academia = filter (2, Funny)

rochberg (1444791) | about 4 years ago | (#33181930)

I shudder to think of the kind of idiocracy we'll be living in, just one generation from now.

Heh heh heh. Yuh tawk lahk uh fag.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (2, Interesting)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 4 years ago | (#33181572)

Very, very true. Some degrees may fall out of favor for self-education, but I'd rather have structural engineers and neurosurgeons with degrees than ones who learned online. There are just too many damned distractions online, and you still don't get the same benefits of a physical classroom, like you said.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1)

jd (1658) | about 4 years ago | (#33181622)

I agree, but formal education and the Internet (or television) are not mutually exclusive. In the UK, Open University is an extremely old (for mass communication, at least) and highly respected approach, albeit not as respected as the higher-end bricks-and-mortar facilities. Regardless of the fact that the lectures have been distributed for free for, what, 40? 50? years, there has been no evidence in the UK of the kind of shift Bill Gates has suggested. It would seem to follow that merely being free and widely circulated is insufficient. Further, UK citizens have, in general, had far more acceptance for this kind of system than the US - which is why PBS is in such poor shape and educational channels in general in the US are a bit of a disaster. (If Discovery can only afford to show 6 programs a quarter, at their size, and record even less than that, when the gameshow channels can afford to splurge on prizes bigger than the cost of recording a documentary every hour, you can tell something about what the priorities are.)

As a self-taught programmer... (3, Interesting)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about 4 years ago | (#33181666)

As a self-taught programmer, the only disadvantage I have noted is that while I just know "a way that will work great", schooled people will be able to put some name to how they want to do things. The X Model, or Y Pattern. Being able to think outside the box is a skill that any good programmer should learn, but not knowing where the box is to begin with puts me at a communication disadvantage when working with a team.

Then again, that's just my experience. People can learn those definitions online just fine -- I tend to learn them on-demand when people mention them. For other fields, being self-taught might not work so great. Some would require materials and equipment too expensive to be self-taught, while others might be too hard to understand without easy access to the insight of a teacher.

And then there are a lot of people who go into school not knowing what they want to do with their lives, and just coast through their first year to find out. The uni experience, exposing them to so many ideas, might end up being better for these people.

Re:As a self-taught programmer... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181746)

As a self-taught programmer, the only disadvantage I have noted is that while I just know "a way that will work great", schooled people will be able to put some name to how they want to do things. The X Model, or Y Pattern.

I'm a self-taught techie as well with an associate's in IT.

Best thing I ever did when I got into the software engineering field was take the equivalent of a minor in real computer science at night later in life, including a survey of discrete math, stats, and linear. You may not end up with a BS, but you'll find that the knowledge and reasoning ability gained is worth the time invested. I used to code 6502 and 68k assembler, then I took a formal architecture class. I didn't know what I was missing.

Re:As a self-taught programmer... (2, Interesting)

DamienRBlack (1165691) | about 4 years ago | (#33181812)

I had similar problems, being self-taught myself. A book about design patterns and/or algorithms will bring you up to speed very quickly. There is a book called "Design Patterns" by several authors (four I believe). I defiantly recommend it for object-oriented design. I'm not sure if you have this problem as well, but I also recommend the book "Clean Code" by Robert C. Martin, it really opened my eyes to how code should be organized, and is a must read for any programmer, but especially self-taught ones.

I haven't found a particularly good algorithms book, does anyone have suggestions?

University has better hardware ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 4 years ago | (#33181736)

Even as a CS major the University offered a major advantage over self-study in terms of the equipment I had access to. I worked during both my BS and MS in CS and the equipment at a state university was far ahead of what most in industry had access to. Open source has greatly narrowed the gap in terms of software, programming languages in particular, but the hardware deficit still exists for the home schooled. Now add having a good project/lab partner sitting next to you staring at the same screen, the same circuit on the lab bench, etc ...

Take it further and consider even the general education chemistry, physics and biology classes. Universities still have a place, but as is usually the case you get what you put into it. There will certainly be home schooled who are more skilled than university trained. However if that capable, curious and hard working home schooled individual had the benefit of a University they may have been able to progress a little farther IMHO.

FWIW, I learned a lot from the University and in parallel I learned a lot from self-study and peers at home. Similar story after graduation, I learned a lot from coworkers and more senior engineers and again from self-study and friends on our own time.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1)

wasabioss (1196799) | about 4 years ago | (#33181744)

As a person who had to teach myself, had to deal with a broken higher education system in my country (Vietnam) and is currently attending a university in the U.S, I agree with you. There are more than just what is taught in the course, for example the professors, the atmosphere, the connections with other students, and courses that you don't even know that you need -- they can only be found when one attends college. IMHO colleges do a better job with teaching general concepts such as physics, philosophy, art; and online materials do better job teaching specific subjects (especially in Computer Science) -- one can go very deep on a subject matter that they finds interesting. Good thing is online materials and colleges are not mutually exclusive: One can have both. I still learn from online materials everyday.

That said, I always think that I'm extremely lucky to be able to attend and afford college in the U.S. For people those do not have money (students in third world countries), sure online materials cannot deliver the experiences of MIT, but they are still way better than listening to crap they have to listen to everyday (in most colleges).

Bill's statement might not hold water for colleges in the US but it's already true in many parts of the world.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | about 4 years ago | (#33181788)

Exactly. I learned quite a bit in classes in undergrad. I learned even more doing a robotics internship with one of my professors. That couldn't have happened online.

Prove it. (1)

elucido (870205) | about 4 years ago | (#33181842)

If you are one of those people who says theres a value to this or that, show us what that value is. Reveal the limitations of the internet education to us. Show us why it's no replacement for a university education.

I think for the liberal arts subjects the internet is a worthy replacement. I think some subjects like science which require work in labs have to be done at a university for sake of experiments and for the equipment. History, social sciences, psychology, most of philosophy and a lot of math subjects can be taught entirely over the web.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1)

DarkIye (875062) | about 4 years ago | (#33181892)

The way I see it, one can become equally suitable for a job from either university or self-study.

When it comes to a company choosing between the two, the company will think "well, they both appear to be equally competent from their interviews and performance on our light tests. However, the one with the degree has concrete proof that they perform satisfactorily for 4-5 years of constant study. Also, as a HR employee, if he fucks up I can say 'but he had a degree from X!'."

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1)

vertinox (846076) | about 4 years ago | (#33181906)

While I used to often boast about having learned at least as much on the net as I did in class, the net is no substitution for a formal education. There is value to the structure of coursework, to the demands of learning material and being tested on it, and to requirement to learn to think and apply logic. There is also value in the advise and teaching of professors, as well as the social and academic interaction you have with other students.

Question, baring engineering and science labs, what can a university do that a person using voip and the net cannot?

I'm asking this because my last job laid everyone off for a company that employs people to work from home.

And a lot of the jobs being offered out there now are work from home voip setups.

Offices have been one of the major things to go in the economic downturn. Face time was seen as a luxury so most businesses decided to cut the over head (also they turned everyone into contractors, but I digress).

Class rooms and labs are nice tools for learning, but the fact of the new economics, that people will settle for less if it costs less.

If an on-line university degree is just valid as a brick and mortar but cost less... Well... Its only logical they will become more popular.

Don't blame me. I used to have an office to myself a long time ago.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | about 4 years ago | (#33182050)

Make you sit there and learn things you don't really want to because they're important. (this is the biggie)

Reliably connect you with experts who can answer your questions or at least tell you what avenues have been tried before.

Put you in regular physical contact with other people who are learning what you are and are asking the same questions you are. The bandwidth between people who are actually in the same room is almost inifinitely greater than it is on IRC or VoIP.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33182022)

The Internet will not replace University - but it will push Universities to challenge the way they do business. The Universities know that their several hundred year old model doesn't stack up in an industry that reinvents itself every couple of years, but won't break free until their enrollment rates fall and attrition rates rise to the point where it is no longer profitable to remain. You already see the changes in Colleges and Polytechnics (smaller class sizes, updated equipment, industry veterans instead of tenured professors), but potential students face the completely fabricated stigma of receiving "just a diploma" for their efforts.
Similarly, if you blame the Universities for putting you in debt while making you "overqualified" for that entry level IT job, you were grossly mislead when you signed up. If you thought that learning about the theories behind computing and sitting through hours of lectures on how things should be done in the real world actually made you useful to employers, I'm really, really sorry, but you have only yourself to blame. IT is a competitive industry, and you need to be honest with yourself about what you have to offer a potential employer. If you think your skills are lacking, go and do something about it - it is the only way you will succeed.

Re:The Net is no Substitution for University (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33182054)

Similarly, "advise" is no replacement for the word "advice."

Not likely! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181372)

In this land, educators try and get away with doing as little work as possible. We're talking about a system where they cut all of the hands-on activities from the curriculum. No, a multiple choice test does not prove that you know how to work on computer hardware.

Re:Not likely! (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 4 years ago | (#33181594)

Um...what? University courses will have hands-on computer courses. Mine sure as hell did.

Re:Not likely! (2, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 4 years ago | (#33181686)

As a troublemaker born into a family of educators, I declare that you are full of shit.

In this land, parents try and get away with doing as little work as possible. Spineless administrators (the PHB's of academia) roll over to every little threat of a lawsuit because innocent little Johnny, always texting his buddies mid-class and distracting everybody else, needs his cell phone tethered to him at all times in case of a terrorist attack.

Is it the educator's fault that you and your kids are pieces of shit? Don't have kids then, asshole.

Computers? What about physics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181776)

a multiple choice test does not prove that you know how to work on computer hardware.

I'd go beyond that. People have computers at home, very few have particle accelerators.

Re:Not likely! (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | about 4 years ago | (#33181894)

I went to a community college(maybe different from Uni) but my course in hardware troubleshooting had me in front of a PC for a few hours each class period. The week leading to the final we tore down a box. We were expected to put it back together correctly. These PCs weren't fresh out of the box either. We were given orphaned and sometimes corpse PCs that the school's IT dept swapped out. The final did include a written portion, but it was largely based on getting the PC put back together, running an updated OS and using the latest drivers

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181386)

How do you do a beer party online?

A guideline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181390)

There should be a set path to follow when being educated. There is hardly any consensus on what would be required knowledge. If for instance someone would state somewhere, *this would be required, and here you can test your skills, everybody would jump on it. A real university would quickly become redundant, if you could participate in official exams.

the proof of it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181406)

And, of course, we have learned about this in the web...

What are you talking about? (2, Insightful)

Rainulf (1678822) | about 4 years ago | (#33181418)

The only reason I go to college is to get the paper. =/

Why learn it when you can Google it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181422)

It sure won't help your social skills though. There is something to be said for the complete University experience.

how about getting rid of need BS or MS for level 1 (4, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33181454)

how about getting rid of need BS or MS for level 1 jobs and most IT jobs. The need BS or MS just to get on the help desktop is pushing way to many people to go to a Univerity rack up the bills and hope to get a $10 /h IT job and at the same it be overqualified for mcdonalds.

Re:how about getting rid of need BS or MS for leve (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181476)

Judging from your post, I'd say the opposite.

You (personally) need to get a BS so you can learn how to write properly and communicate effectively.

Re:how about getting rid of need BS or MS for leve (3, Informative)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 4 years ago | (#33181544)

If you haven't learned how to speak by the end of high school then you're not going to learn how to.

Re:how about getting rid of need BS or MS for leve (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33182052)

If you haven't learned how to speak by the end of high school then you're not going to learn how to.

Maybe Joe The Dragon types English better than you can comprehend his native language?

Re:how about getting rid of need BS or MS for leve (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | about 4 years ago | (#33181808)

And not get a $10/hour job doing IT either. (HINT: Most respectable places pay WAY more than that.)

Re:how about getting rid of need BS or MS for leve (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33182062)

I've got a MSc in comp sci, entry level jobs start at $17/hr...while I get paid $25/hr, under the table, to mow lawns & do landscaping. Yes, I am the worlds most overqualified gardener : p

Re:how about getting rid of need BS or MS for leve (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 years ago | (#33181854)

Beh. Proper english can be taught in 30hrs at the community college level. I know, as I didn't get any proper form of edumudcation while in school(yet somehow I managed to get through life just fine), you were taught maybe 1-2 days, a year and by the time you hit highschool you were expected to be proficient. The interesting thing is, I've seen worse with the kids of today then what we got from my generation.

Regardless, the GP is right. Companies pushing for a BS and so on for entry level, are simply being dense. It's the same as requiring a BS to be a garbageman, or mechanic. I've done the latter, not the former, and I've got two different BS's. For the former the ability to grunt work is a plus, for the latter, being able to creatively think of what's causing the problem is a plus.

Re:how about getting rid of need BS or MS for leve (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 4 years ago | (#33181786)

There is no such thing as overqualified, only retard with a degree in this case.

McDonalds doesn't ignore your application because you're overqualified. They ignore your application because you were too stupid to take off the fact that you were overqualified.

As for the degree for tier one type jobs ... why drop it? There is an abundance of MS and BS graduates out there who aren't really capable of doing much besides being an help desk script reader. At least they proved they could go to class often enough to pass, though they also weren't bright enough to realize it was a waste of money. Sounds like exactly what we expect out of tier one support.

Traditional Eduction (1)

codepunk (167897) | about 4 years ago | (#33181460)

I don't think traditional eduction is going anywhere soon. There are two types of people in this world, the self learners and those that require a structured if not forced educational environment.

Re:Traditional Eduction (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 4 years ago | (#33181568)

There are two types of people in this world, the self learners and those that require a structured if not forced educational environment.

HR uses type #2 as a gateway, real world management demands type #1. The bigger the company the worse the disconnect. Look at how many companies provide no training or at best, on the job training for the new technologies they roll out, yet demand the new hires have a 4 year degree and 10 years of experience with a 2 year old technology. Only folks with inside connections or BS artists can pass the filter, causing failure. Solution to the failure can't be pinned on "important" people, must come up with a nonjudgmental soution... How about tighter, higher requirements of course, leading to the spiral down the drain.

Re:Traditional Eduction (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 4 years ago | (#33181606)

True. I enjoyed my time at a university and know I benefited greatly from a structured, set environment. Just sitting at home online? Way too many goddamned distractions.

Related: Higher Education Bubble (3, Insightful)

dfenstrate (202098) | about 4 years ago | (#33181462)

I saw this [] an hour ago, and it came to mind immediately upon seeing the headline and brief.

Brick-and-Mortar schools have been engaged in an 'arms race' for students this past decade, fueled by easy credit and enabled by low academic standards. It's enabled them to offer all kinds of nice perks that are expensive and not central to education, and it has also allowed many universities to grow top-heavy with administrators.

My degree as a mechanical engineer allowed me to get a job with a substantial starting salary, which was necessary to cover my substantial student loans. I came out okay after a few years of aggressively paying down my debt, but there are thousands of folks who are in just as deep as I used to be, with a degree that doesn't open up well-paying fields to them. Though I don't regret the path I took (my life is good), I wouldn't use debt if I had to do it again. There are other ways (in-state, scholarships, military, etc.)

Anyway, from the article:

My reasoning was simple enough: Something that can't go on forever, won't. And the past decades' history of tuition growing much faster than the rate of inflation, with students and parents making up the difference via easy credit, is something that can't go on forever. Thus my prediction that it won't.

But then what? Assume that I'm right, and that higher education - both undergraduate and graduate, and including professional education like the law schools in which I teach - is heading for a major correction. What will that mean? What should people do?

Well, advice number one - good for pretty much all bubbles, in fact - is this: Don't go into debt. In bubbles, people borrow heavily because they expect the value of what they're borrowing against to increase.

Let the bubble burst (2, Interesting)

DesScorp (410532) | about 4 years ago | (#33181640)

I'm 100% with on the issue of the higher education bubble. The costs involved are in no way justified by reality... there's just no way to stretch supply and demand to explain both the ridiculous costs and the way the system is rigged to artificially raise those costs.

One of the newspaper pundits with an economics background... maybe Thomas Sowell, I'm not sure... was arguing against a proposed grant to all parents for college. Someone in Congress was tossing around the idea of sending every set a parents $5000 per child to help with college costs. The pundit argued that if you did that, nothing would be helped, because what would happen is that every college would just raise their tuition by $5000. I think he was probably right about that.

Worked for Gates (5, Insightful)

russlar (1122455) | about 4 years ago | (#33181466)

Gates dropped out of Harvard to found Microsoft, so seeing him say that university isn't necessary is a little unsurprising.

He Did Graduate & He Advises Otherwise (2, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 4 years ago | (#33181552)

Gates dropped out of Harvard to found Microsoft, so seeing him say that university isn't necessary is a little unsurprising.

And yet four months ago, he advised students not to do that [] . There can only be one or two Bill Gates' so advising millions of people to do that is not a great idea. And, to poke a hole in your logic he technically did graduate [] .

Re:He Did Graduate & He Advises Otherwise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181668)

Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison come to mind.

Re:Worked for Gates (1)

morari (1080535) | about 4 years ago | (#33181580)

Because he's right. The best thing a university education is going to get you is a mundane, predictable life. The worst you'll end up with is no job and a ton of debt. Most people are fine with those options and seem to seek them out, but to say that universities are need for real education is little more than brainwashed sentiments echoing about. You don't go to college to learn, you go there for a little piece of paper that substantiates your claims of knowledge in a field. No one learns, they just go through the motions.

Re:Worked for Gates (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181942)

>a ton of debt

Only in countries with a horrible education system.

Exceptions and Rules (1)

DesScorp (410532) | about 4 years ago | (#33181650)

Gates dropped out of Harvard to found Microsoft, so seeing him say that university isn't necessary is a little unsurprising.

Yes, extraordinary people can succeed without college. Steve Jobs did it too. But the fact is that most people aren't extraordinary, and most people with a college degree end up better off than those without one.

Re:Worked for Gates (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#33182064)

I'll tell you though, Bill Gates is one of the most highly motivated people on the planet. If everyone had the same motivation as him, we would all be doing amazing things (in our own fields, some of us would be building flying cars in our garage, others solving AI, others developing new techniques to style hair, if that's what their passion is). For the rest of us, by which I mean me, it is extremely helpful to have the University there giving you an extra push. I took an abstract algebra class, and I'm very glad I did because it was interesting, but had I done so on my own, I would have likely given up as soon as it got hard (and there are hard parts in every interesting subject). The threat of failing the class was helpful keeping me motivated and finishing it. Same with algorithms class...very difficult, but I'm sure glad I know it now.

And that is without even mentioning some of the fascinating professors I met.

Nobody needs more than 512k (2, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | about 4 years ago | (#33181470)

Keep in mind who we're talking about when it comes to predictions here.

There's absolutely no doubt that the web is already changing education and revolutionizing it. But there's no substitute for actually going to a class in person... with other learners and a teacher in front of you... for much of your formal education.

Anyone can read the Iliad on their own, or teach themselves HTML, or read the words of critics or teachers on a screen. But if you're missing the give and take of the classroom, then you're missing out on vital elements of an education.

"He that teaches himself has a fool for his master" - Ben Franklin

Re:Nobody needs more than 512k (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 4 years ago | (#33181586)

But if you're missing the give and take of the classroom, then you're missing out on vital elements of an education.

Most classrooms have no give and take.

Re:Nobody needs more than 512k (1)

DesScorp (410532) | about 4 years ago | (#33181680)

But if you're missing the give and take of the classroom, then you're missing out on vital elements of an education.

Most classrooms have no give and take.

True, some of them are boring as chalk, and it's simply an exercise in the class listening to an instructor read from a book for two hours. I've had those classes. And no matter where you go... Harvard or Easy-to-get-into-StateU.... your freshman classes are mostly going to be taught by grad assistants anyway. But as you move along and take higher level classes, you WILL start getting ones with an instructor or professor that gives a damn about what he's doing, and not only wants to impart knowledge to his students, but some wisdom too. And that's what you're missing out on when you do everything online.

Re:Nobody needs more than 512k (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 4 years ago | (#33181882)

I think the issue is more about whether most people need to go. If university was "free" then yes, I don't see why someone shouldn't go and in fact it would be harmful not to go.

But university isn't free. It can cost a lot of time and money and if the value if of that degree drops then you do need to question if it's worth the effort and more importantly the debt.

Too many people think a degree is some sort of magic bullet that will guarantee them success and that is not the case especially now. I believe the best route would be to raise elementary / high school standards much more so you can leave basic schooling better some do now. Then universities can raise their standards and the people who are serious about university can get on with their work and those who don't really need it can jump straight into work and start gaining experience or get specific cheaper and or quicker training for the job in question.

I believe this will also solve a lot of problems we have like people living with their parents far too long, having kids too late and people just being miserable because they're up to their necks in debt and debt they don't feel is really worth it.

Re:Nobody needs more than 512k (2, Informative)

Mspangler (770054) | about 4 years ago | (#33181890)

"But there's no substitute for actually going to a class in person"

Not to mention the chemistry lab, the distillation column in the Chem. E building, the fire assay furnaces in the mining building, the lasers in physics, and the entire barn full of animals in agriculture.

It's not all book-learning and the domain of pure thought the Liberal Arts majors think that college should be.

Re:Nobody needs more than 512k (1)

vertinox (846076) | about 4 years ago | (#33182006)

But there's no substitute for actually going to a class in person... with other learners and a teacher in front of you... for much of your formal education.

Could you not acheive the same with a conference call and a powerpoint presentation or video conference?

Sure there is face time and easier reading of the class, but when I went to school I was in classes with 300 kids in it so I really doubt they saw my face back on the 20th row.

In the corporate world, flying to meetings was the first thing cut during the downturn.

We ended up tons of conference calls and shared desktops for the meetings and technology classes.

So I am asking... If it works for a major corporation, then why doesn't it work for universities.

Would save on costs of logistics like dorm rooms etc.

Besides in the real world, you are more likely to deal with people over the phone and email than you are in person. You'll be given a Blackberry and expected to work 24/7 too. Haha. But I digress.

Again... Businesses have decided face time and presence is no longer important. Don't see why universities won't follow suite.

So what can you tell me about molecular biology? (1)

drunkennewfiemidget (712572) | about 4 years ago | (#33181478)

I know all about molecular biology:

Fatal exception 0E has occurred in module NTKERNEL.DLL.

rewind ftw (3, Informative)

nten (709128) | about 4 years ago | (#33181494)

I always zoned out in lectures while in school. I probably have ADD or something. I never fell asleep, but every so often I'd either keep thinking about the last thing the proff said, and get behind, or just realize I had gone into standby for about 30-45s and had no hope of catching up. I also find it impossible to take notes and listen at the same time. Listening to Gibert Strange's linear algebra lectures on OCW was infinitely more educational than my original course in college. Partly because he is simply a far superior teacher to the one I had in college, but mostly because I could rewind and listen to what he said again. If I have a question I cannot ask the proff, but I can search it and find a hundred people answering my exact question.

In short, I totally agree that the internet is a better teacher for self motivated students, but this will create an accreditation problem. The right way to fix it is for interviews to get more complex and difficult, but that should really be looked at anyway. Employers are terrible at ascertaining the actual skill level of candidates. So in many first world countries they get stuck with useless mouths to feed because they cannot get rid of them for simply being vastly subpar. Or perhaps I am the only person who works in an office where "programmers" have been made software process facilitators, data entry personnel, or even facilities coordinators (fancy name for the guy who orders pencils), just to get them away from the code. Some of them have management skills and get promoted away from the code, but they tend to harbor a resentment for not being able to contribute earlier in their career, and displace it on the engineers they now manage.

How do you put that on a resume? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181514)

The benefit of a college or university diploma is that it provides a verifiable credential.

As such, a degree from Internet U. will be worth less than one from the University of Phoenix. It would be more akin to a diploma from the School of Hard Knocks. Best of luck in your job search with that as your only credential.

Knowledge requires effort. (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 years ago | (#33181522)

It will be better than any single university.

Ya, I think I read that on Wikipedia somewhere.

Seriously, as with any learning experience, you get out what you put in. You can get a bad education from a good school or a good education from a bad (well, less-good) school. Much depends on *your* level of effort and desire to learn.

"Good Will Hunting" scenario (4, Insightful)

Gopal.V (532678) | about 4 years ago | (#33181540)

There's so little taught in a university course that I couldn't read off a public library.

But here's the deal, I don't think the epistemological quest for knowledge motivates me. I learn purely as a way of solving the problems I have. Sometimes real life doesn't even let me near interesting problems, because the cost of failure (and the risk) is too high.

College and teachers have worked as a nice cycle breaker of that situation. They've thrown problems at me, which have taken weeks to solve (or groups of us, weeks to solve). Some of those have seemed pointless, but most of the stuff I remember still have been the ones that I've had to dig up again for some reason or the other (calculus, for instance).

Essentially, without teachers, I'd have never really sat down and banged on a problem for a week - mostly to avoid having the shame of going back without an answer.

On the other hand, I've had at least a few teachers who've cared enough about teaching me than making sure of their paycheck. I don't think the world needs less of those. And I don't think you (or anybody) should stop learning because they're out of uni.

(goes back to reading wikipedia on RCU data structures)

Guy with lots of money says it, so it must be true (5, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | about 4 years ago | (#33181592)

I noticed that in most modern cultures, having a lot of money seems to imply automatically that they are right. "Sure, he killed those children, but he's a billionaire." or "Well, this statement seems like bollocks, but it comes from one of the wealthiest persons in the world, so we should pay attention." Problem is, Gates really has no authority regarding higher education or any kind of career that leads to creativity. He's a very successful businessman, that's all. You can make a lot of money just by manipulating powerful people and making the necessary contacts.

Now, if some of the established and creative scientists, engineers or physicians had made this assertion about education, I might listen. But Gates? What does his authority stand on, apart from his money?

Re:Guy with lots of money says it, so it must be t (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181862)

So my choices are believe the guy who made SO much money he quit his job and they still pay him a fortune ... or ...

believe the teachers and professors who's sole goal in life is to get tenure so they don't have to worry about working hard ever again.

You may be right that Gates isn't really qualified to make such a statement, but I'm more inclined to believe the man who 'does' rather than I am to believe the man that 'tells me how to do it, but doesn't actually do it himself' which is what professors are.

If they could get a real job, they wouldn't be professors. Being a professor has the advantages of being able to have your students do your work for you, getting paid, and eventually having a nice permeant get out of jail free card.

Those who can, Do.

Those who can't, teach about it.

Those who can't teach about it, write books telling everyone else how to teach about it and do it.

Re:Guy with lots of money says it, so it must be t (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181958)

'and making the necessary contacts' - Exactly which is why His kids will be going to Harvard or Yale etc.

Just because Gates made billions of dollars (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | about 4 years ago | (#33181596)

in software does not mean that he has any insight into education.

The biggest benefit of the web on education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181608)

The web will be the mechanism by which consumers of education will be able to do an end-run around the teachers unions.

Education consumers have little sway over the system beyond moving to a new locality. And the only thing that will change the system is when consumers can say no. And the teachers unions are not about to let that happen.

The web will benefit education consumers as much as it will benefit good teachers and hurt the unions which is why online education will be demonized as inferior to the shit that we are currently being fed.

Online Learning (4, Funny)

bacon volcano (1260566) | about 4 years ago | (#33181634)

I admit, I attended a brick and mortar school, but there are simply some things that you learn online that aren't covered in college:

- Cats have horrible spelling and grammar skills
- There are hot and lonely singles in my area that I wasn't even aware of
- My great grandfather was a wealthy Nigerian businessman
- Acai berries cure everything
- Baby Pandas sneeze, and yes, it's amazing
- People that I thought had few friends, actually have many, many hundreds (per Facebook)
- Clock spiders are the scariest ones

Lectures versus books/papers (2, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#33181654)

I learn much better and faster from books than lectures. The material in books can be refined greatly and precisely, and digested at whatever rate I can manage. Watching someone lecture always leaves me feeling that I could be getting many times the knowledge using a more efficient delivery mechanism.

Complement not compete (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about 4 years ago | (#33181664)

University was great for me. The sex, the music, meeting academics, the culture, the learning. All of it great. But since I left university my learning needs have changed significantly and content on the internet has grown to address them. I now need to almost rent knowledge. That is, learn something with limited application for a short time for some specific project and then I can go ahead and forget it. There are plenty of good reasons for universities to exist, but I think they need to concentrate on complementing what is available online rather than competing with it. And given that such a wealth of things have become available online recently that simply did not exist before, that means Universities need to change and refocus on becoming centers for bringing people together to create new things and de-emphasize their role in stuffing people with "business friendly" skillsets. That does not mean that they need to drop undergraduate engineering programs, just that they need to concentrate more specifically on what they uniquely bring to the process of learning.

Spoken like a born rich college dropout (5, Insightful)

bADlOGIN (133391) | about 4 years ago | (#33181692)

Besides, higher education is only about coursework the same way international travel is only about airports...
Would he like to tell the world how it should approach physical therapy based on the one time he sprained his ankle?

learning necessitates interaction (1)

cats-paw (34890) | about 4 years ago | (#33181728)

I find I learn much more slowly if I can't discuss things with others.

maybe that's just me.

(University = lectures) the way (sex = wet spots) (2, Interesting)

liquiddark (719647) | about 4 years ago | (#33181732)

Lectures may be a necessary evil, but they're far from the core of a university education. A university education challenges students to begin to independently develop their own knowledge and opinions on subjects, to conduct research to back up those opinions, and generally to think on their own, all using a specific toolset that has been refined over centuries or even millennia (engineering and philosophy can both make the claim) of mental effort. Even in highly technical practice-based fields students have to do a ton of independent learning and development (admittedly at a level that is not of professional calibre but still forms an excellent basis for truly novel work later in their careers). Lectures are just a means for profs to communicate to students the core precepts they want to focus on, and for some students a basic way to approach material so that they can at least pass classes in which they have no real interest. A good professor will personally engage with both kinds of students and get them to engage with the material on an appropriate basis, expanding their mental toolkit.

It's important to recognize that there is a steady pressure to remove this kind of developmental philosophy from secondary education, pushing it out into the postsecondary programs of the world, where it is of practical use. But that push is a sin against the intent of a higher education, and taking away the trappings of university entirely just removes the guidance that students need in order to learn the tools that their forebears have spent so much time refining. It's possible there are gains to be made in getting away from that guidance, but it's hardly likely that the benefit to a few outstanding thinkers would outweigh the danger to those of us of more limited means.

Technology aids the smart to be smarter... (1)

rmdyer (267137) | about 4 years ago | (#33181750)

... and the dumb to be dumber. I can't even begin to guess what can happen if this "online" type of education becomes intermingled with, or is only supported by advertising.

Hot Dog (1)

DannyO152 (544940) | about 4 years ago | (#33181756)

I'm off to rewrite my resume and submit to Microsoft. Gone: all the bits about my schooling. Coming in: all the websites I visit.

This is probably venturing into "Ask Slashdot" territory, but, um, Slashdot, in or out?

Re:Hot Dog (2, Funny)

drumcat (1659893) | about 4 years ago | (#33181880)

Um, he's not at MSFT anymore...

Not anywhere safety is important (1)

shaper (88544) | about 4 years ago | (#33181780)

For anything that is safety critical, no way. Ever. There is a reason for the length and rigor of the education and training process for engineers and doctors. I do not want to cross a bridge built by a guy who read how to do it on some web site.

That's already true, but it isn't practical. (2, Interesting)

MrCrassic (994046) | about 4 years ago | (#33181792)

MIT OpenCourseWare has, almost undoubtedly, the best and strongest educational platform available. The course material, syllabi and problem sets are not only usually provided by leaders in their respective fields (e.g. the Linear Algebra course is 'taught' by the person that wrote the Linear Algebra text I was using at the time...and I was taking it for credit at Courant), but are often much more challenging than comparable material from universities (unless, of course, you go to MIT). Gates uses this as a driver for his argument, so we already knew that.

Let's see a job-seeking 'senior' of OCW get through the HR filters when it comes time to make that cash.

Most [HR departments of] companies and corporations still place strict emphasis on diploma and GPA average. Whether or not that's a quantifiable resource to evaluate candidates with is another argument entirely, but a diploma is much more tangible than candidates who "learned" from OCW and the like. Additionally, college isn't just about the paper and the commencement rites; there's a lot to learn from being a proper college student, like networking, time management (REALLY important) and social skills. You don't necessarily even have to live on campus to enjoy those benefits, though it usually helps to do so (if off-campus housing is actually priced at human rates, of course; room and board rates are insane these days).I can't emphasize the time management component enough; unless one has the will of an ox, it's just way too easy to shrug off a class that won't affect your GPA. Not so for the capstone project that's due two months before graduation that determines whether one will even graduate or not.

What I do hope to see is a proliferation of digital text books that cost less and can be updated more often. We already have iPads and will soon have Android tablets that can hold a bookbag's worth of textbooks at a fraction of the weight and cost. Most popular textbooks can already be retrieved through simple means (Google especially) for nothing. I hope the combination of those two leads to a mass shift similar to that which occurred in the music industry where textbooks don't need to be factored in the cost of one's education.

virtual labs (1)

t35t0r (751958) | about 4 years ago | (#33181810)

The quality of online education could improve even more when virtual reality labs can be used at low cost. Even then, actually working with lab equipment (bio/medical or engineering) adds greatly to the curriculum. Some of these things are just way to expensive for the average person to purchase.

False Dichotomy (1)

Barefoot Monkey (1657313) | about 4 years ago | (#33181848)

This is a false dichotomy. Studying at a university does not preclude you from using the Internet as well - university students benefit from the Internet just as much (if not more) than non-students, in addition to the formal education that they are already receiving.

It won't happen (1)

drumcat (1659893) | about 4 years ago | (#33181864)

University Rule #1 - the University is a BUSINESS - treat it as such. The main problem is that the university system is built on requiring 75% of your classload to be non-major courses. If you went back, and only had to take your pre-reqs, and your major classes, you'd probably take only 48h and be done in two years. That only benefits the student. Schools aren't interested in churning out grads quickly. Schools, in general, want students to pay money, period. This keeps universities open for business. Remember NAU doing that RFID on kids for attendance?

A Self-Appointed Teacher Runs a One-Man 'Academy' (4, Interesting)

KPexEA (1030982) | about 4 years ago | (#33181866)

The most popular educator on YouTube does not have a Ph.D. He has never taught at a college or university. And he delivers all of his lectures from a bedroom closet.

This upstart is Salman Khan, a 33-year-old who quit his job as a financial analyst to spend more time making homemade lecture videos in his home studio. His unusual teaching materials started as a way to tutor his faraway cousins, but his lectures have grown into an online phenomenon—and a kind of protest against what he sees as a flawed educational system. [] []

University (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 years ago | (#33181872)

I would tend to agree with gates that university is not really the ultimate way to got, if tons of lectures and school material will be available for everyone soon I have no idea.

Having taken around 3 years of courses at Waterloo I have only found one course with anything worth learning in it so far.
and even if you are in a interesting course that does not mean that the professors know much about the content of the course, can speak english, know enough about teaching to do a good job, or care.

I would far rather watch a lecture online from a professor that is universally believed to be great at all of these things, then attend a lecture in person from a professor likely to be lacking in all of these areas.

"How to", yes; approach, no. (1)

Animats (122034) | about 4 years ago | (#33181896)

The Web is good for "how-to" information. If you need to know how to configure a router or unfreeze a rusty bolt, the Web is there for you. How to approach a problem, not so much.

Gates is lying (1)

blai (1380673) | about 4 years ago | (#33181902)

The Bachelor of Porn is NOT recognized worldwide.

Warped perspective (1)

couch_warrior (718752) | about 4 years ago | (#33181916)

Mr. Gates has a long history of making warped predictions about the future. Remember this is a guy who has computer monitors hanging on the walls of his house that change the artwork to suit each visitor, because clearly a digitized picture of a masterpiece is just as good as the real thing, right? In the same way, a digitized copy of an education is just as good as a real education, right? But where will chemists perform labwork online? Where will biology students do dissections? Other than being a pale washed-out copy of a real education, there's the problem of quality control. On-line materials are going to include lectures on the "Jewish Communist Bankers" conspiracy written by Josef Goebels, and treatises on how the "government" is hiding reverse-engineered UFO's at "Area 51". What Mr. Gates is doing is hawking yet another revenue generating app for the Windows PC. Look at what the cesspool of the internet has done to corrupt the quality of everyday life, and you can easily see, Mr. Gates concern is for increasing his already vast fortune,. The public welfare can go to hell, as long as Mr. Gates and Microsoft get to charge a toll at the entrance.

Gates has lost it, the web doesn't grant degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33181926)

What good is knowledge without connections? After all, everybody knows success doesn't care how much you know, it's how affluent your family is

nepotism rules in this corrupt and evil system

As one who has lived in both worlds... (2, Insightful)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | about 4 years ago | (#33181964)

As a person who has been engaged in both tradition university and online courses, I can tell you that neither is perfect, but I would have to lean towards Mr. Gates statement. The coursework is similarly structured, there is still interaction between Profs and students, and also student-student interaction. You do lack the physical connection, and therefore the social network you might build, but for a non traditional student like myself, this really has fairly little value in the first place. One of the beauties of online work is that with non-semester based work, you can work at your own pace. So my international studies class I can whiz through, while I can take the extra time and effort on math that my feeble brain requires. To me it is an exercise in efficiency, but at the same time discipline. I find it hard to believe many of the 17-21 year olds who populate the majority of university have the amount of discipline to dedicate themselves to this format. So I think online courses can and will evolve but mostly for non-traditional students. One thing I struggle with though is the disconnect between the thirst for knowledge vs the practical knowledge for the profession I am currently undertaking.

PS. Things like Opencoursewar and the Khan academy have some superior classes!

The Problem with Most Distance Learning Right Now (1)

AtlanticCarbon (760109) | about 4 years ago | (#33181978)

Usually, you get no credit. And even if you get credit, it's not credit other institutions would accept. With that said we should be pushing distance learning. Modern universities are like country clubs and they unnecessarily raise the cost of education. The solution is to test people rigorously and in person so that other institutions and employers will take the experience seriously. Community colleges are in the best position to offer online courses for the basics.

Feeling godlike (1)

alvieboy (61292) | about 4 years ago | (#33182044)

I have [Internet], therefore I am [God].

hire people who go to community colleges over spor (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33182056)

hire people who go to community colleges and tech schools over Universitys that like to make a big deal about there sports teams.
You know smart people don't have the cash to go to the big Universitys or don't want to take on the loans to go to one.

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