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Online Courses and the $100 Graduate Degree

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the no-need-for-a-loan dept.

Education 339

First time accepted submitter GCA10 writes "Forbes reports on the latest project of Google Fellow Sebastian Thrun (the proponent of self-driving cars.) He's moved on to education now, believing that conventional university teaching is way too costly, inefficient and ineffective to survive for long. So he started Udacity, which aims to deliver an online version of a master's degree for $100 per student. From the article: 'Udacity’s earliest course offerings have been free, and although Thrun eventually plans to charge something, he wants his tuition schedule to be shockingly low. Getting a master’s degree might cost just $100. After teaching his own artificial intelligence class at Stanford last year—and attracting 160,000 online signups—Thrun believes online formats can be far more effective than traditional classroom lectures. “So many people can be helped right now,” Thrun declares. “I see this as a mission.”'"

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You get what you pay for (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40239935)

Besides, it's going to be a hard sell that it is legit.

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40239985)

You get what you pay for

And yet some of the best things in life are free. It would be nice to add a world class education to that list.

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240753)

Would be nice but the people who make the tests, grade work, produce classes, etc all expect to be paid. At the college level those people have decades of training and don't come cheap.

Re:You get what you pay for (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40239995)

Thrun's name and reputation ought to change that soon enough.

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

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240327)

I did not particularly like his teaching style (in the AI class), however that comment applies to any class, free or not. I do 100% like the idea of offering education for a reasonable price.

Look at it this way; in the future an employer needs to select a new hire. 2 people apply, both with master's degress. One paid $40,000 a year for it, one paid $100 a year. Which is the smarter one?

Indeed, you get what you paid for, not.

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

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240395)

I got paid $25,000 to get a masters degree - tuition waiver and stipend for two years. who's the smartest in the room?

Re:You get what you pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240435)

If I were to stop at my masters, I would have made $58,000, minimum. I guess I'm forgoing wages of about $100,000 for that same term, but w/e.

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

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240421)

Look at it this way; in the future an employer needs to select a new hire. 2 people apply, both with master's degress. One paid $40,000 a year for it, one paid $100 a year. Which is the smarter one?

So one went to Harvard and the other watched some Youtube videos and maybe emailed in a couple of tests and a thesis of some sort to an advisor of such demand that they charged nothing for their services.

In the grand scheme of things, yeah, the second one might be "smarter", but as a real employer I will have to go with the first person.

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240607)

I suppose that's true, until people who have completed the less expensive one prove more capable and useful, in significant numbers, over time.

Then you take the better one. Who actually cares what you paid for your degree? The point of having one (nowadays) is to determine how useful you'll be before you have a real work history.

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

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240431)

As part of that $40k you're also getting contacts and connections. You think Prof. Thrun is going to recommend you to a colleague who might be hiring, or provide a reference for you? Because I know my master's advisor certainly will.

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

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240547)

for $40,000 I bet HE would.

Re:You get what you pay for (2)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240615)

As part of that $40k you're also getting contacts and connections.

You hit upon the true value of college, the social network. College offers everyone an opportunity to leave their socioeconomic environment behind and move into a new and, hopefully, better one. That is one reason fraternities and sororities continue to thrive as they process these people into their alumni systems. The college social system is far from perfect, but it is probably more efficient than its education system. Ask Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, or Mark Zuckerberg, three famous dropouts.

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

LilGuy (150110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240449)

Which one is going to stick to the job because he sold his first born child to cover the debts?

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

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240553)

One paid $40,000 a year for it, one paid $100 a year. Which is the smarter one?

That's a good question.

One hundred dollars buys two or three hours of time from a professional tutor or teaching assistant.

Assuming no laboratory or administrative costs, how valuable is an education that you got for the cost of two or three hours of one-on-one attention (including teaching and evaulation) per year?

Re:You get what you pay for (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240689)

But you are missing the other part of that equation which is all the insider bullshit and the prestige the name dropping can bring you. I've known guys that have landed 6 figure salary jobs straight out of college with frankly mediocre grades, how? because the one in charge of hires was a guy that went to the same frat. My oldest is doing pre-med at the local college and just because he's done charity work with one of the local churches where the pastor is a big alumni he is gonna go through pre-med with practically no debt at all and has even got a local doctor sponsoring him for all of his text books and a $2500 a quarter stipend.

A LOT of what you get out of these colleges is about networking and name dropping more than it is simply the education itself. Go to an Ivy League college and join one of the frats and it'll be damned hard for you to fail anyway but up, all because of the connections you end up with. While i don't personally think that is worth the frankly insane prices that higher ed is charging it certainly isn't worthless either.

Re:You get what you pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240721)

Not a reasonable way to look at it. Technology starts out more expensive, and becomes cheaper. Consider slow $3/hour internet versus the low monthly fees today for a constant connection dozens of times faster. Or better yet, consider a past where nobility was the educated class and commoners being unable to read, and the transition to almost everyone being literate.

The people who strive for expensive Ivy League educations will still have the connections and added charm of doing it that way, and the people who afforded themselves tutors that would ensure they understood the material will still have that edge.

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

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240531)

An awful lot of Americans are paying a lot and getting very little out of college right now... especially at for-profit universities [salon.com] . Every taxpayer has an interest in this subject because of federal student loans.

Major reform is going to be necessary because the college debt bubble is going to pop sooner rather than later. I applaud this man's effort to bring some fiscal sanity to the world of higher education.

black people (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40239941)

apes

I took his AI class (4, Interesting)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40239943)

I thought his whimsical attitude and passion for teaching were amazing and I learned a lot for zero dollars. I'd easily pay 100 bucks to have him teach me more stuff.

Re:I took his AI class (4, Interesting)

snkline (542610) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240019)

I didn't care much for the AI class (I took the Machine Learning class at the same time, which I felt was far superior), however his Robot Car class was really good. It took the practical application aspect the Machine Learning class had, making it far more engaging. I love Udacity, Coursera and MITx, the problem is I think I'm a little ADD, I sign up for just about everything and can't keep up given the limited time I can devote to them outside work.

Re:I took his AI class (5, Insightful)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240021)

I don't think the issue is whether people can be taught for low amounts money. Clearly they can. Just have a HUGE number listening online, and you can make a living easilly by spreading the cost among them. Per student, it will be very low.

The real problem is the cost of evaluating what students know. You can't give someone a master's degree unless you can evaluate that they know their stuff, or else the degree becomes worthless. And evaluations require tests. True, you *could* make all the tests multiple choice, but what about times when a hands on test in a lab environment is needed? What about times when creativity is required in the answer, or designs have to be drawn, etc, and it can't be fit into a multiple choice test? A computer can't grade that. Humans have to. Hiring TAs for 160,000 people is going to raise the cost far above $100. Unless he plans to just do multiple choice, in which case, his students will likely be good at memorization and not hands on application. And cheating may also be easier with 160,000 people taking anonymous multiple choice tests.

And I would also argue a lot of good educations require hands on lab training too, which is something else that becomes costly when you think of test lab infrastructures for so many people.

Re:I took his AI class (1)

snkline (542610) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240035)

This is why I think this is a better model for things like computer science and engineering, rather than subjects in the humanities for instance. You can't automatically grade essays, but you can automatically grade software projects, which demonstrate an understanding of the subject matter.

and why should I have to pay $$$ for humanities cl (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240205)

and why should I have to pay $$$ for humanities classes for a IT or engineering job?? at least some of that stuff can be offered at a much lower cost.

It's all the filler (that are some schools you don't have that much choice over) at some schools a over load of GEN edu classes (does a IT / desktop job really need tig and other higher Math classes?) some required classes are just there to fill up classes and to make people pay more (some schools still have the swim test)

Why do have pay fees at the college price level to take a swim test??

Re:and why should I have to pay $$$ for humanities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240291)

does a IT / desktop job really need tig and other higher Math classes?

Maybe you took more of those Gen-ed classes you would know how to spell trigonometry or trig for short correctly.

Re:and why should I have to pay $$$ for humanities (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240559)

Maybe if you took more of those gen ed classes, you would have learned to compose a sentence without any missing words.

Re:and why should I have to pay $$$ for humanities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240613)

Perhaps the person to whom you are replying took at least one linguistic course as part of their general education requirements. An introductory linguistics class teaches that the human brain is very adept at filling in missing words and even at compensating for misspellings.

Perhaps you missed the point. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240581)

Those general education classes may have had more to do with having an educated populace with a breadth of knowledge than simply making sure you know how to turn your crank.

That whole general diffusion of knowledge thing George Washington spoke of.

“Promote then as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

I know, a crazy old fashion idea. May as well accept the low information voter and the inevitably apocalypse they come with.

Re:Perhaps you missed the point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240709)

How does this make any sense in a world where the vast majority of gen-eds are incredibly useless and yet cost the student precisely the same as advanced engineering/science classes? Given the choice of taking graduate-level robotics or "asian-american heritage" (for the same price), which is more cost-effective for interested CS students?

"Breadth of knowledge" is a very noble goal in education, but attaching a $4000-5000 bill is not the way of promoting it. I didn't come to the US to study "religion 101"; that I can do perfectly well on my own free time.

Re:and why should I have to pay $$$ for humanities (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240623)

The humanities, social sciences, and pure math/science are there to produce 'educated people' not those who can fill a specific job. Admittedly, some GenEd classes are there as filler, but the fundamental goal behind them is to ensure that anyone given a degree does not embarrass their university. Admittedly, if you get your Greek philosophers mixed up it isn't a big deal, but you should have some appreciation of the role the ancients played in developing western culture. One area for GenEd that is often overlooked is a statistics course at the level needed to understand what is and is not a valid conclusion from data.

Re:and why should I have to pay $$$ for humanities (4, Insightful)

WastedMeat (1103369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240683)

As a scientific programmer, I find it amazing that any significant portion of people in serious IT place no value on math higher than and including trigonometry. Is this actually the case?

And as a citizen in a democracy, I find it amazing and frightening that a significant portion of people who actually vote see no value in general education courses. When I was a kid in the 90's, we used to call someone a "tool" as an insult.

Split the teaching from the testing. (5, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240095)

Right now we have testing centers for vendor-specific certifications.

Run the classes on-line for whatever price.
Those who just want to learn can stop there.
Those who want a degree can pay to take the tests at the testing centers.

For more complex tests either offer them in central locations or have traveling test sites. These would be more expensive than the other tests, but probably a LOT cheaper than the current model.

Re:Split the teaching from the testing. (1)

csumpi (2258986) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240451)

Great idea. Wish I had mod points for you.

Re:I took his AI class (1)

shimage (954282) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240239)

No point in testing their lab skills, if they haven't spent any time in a lab. Not sure how you can spend time in a lab online, but maybe someone clever will figure it out.

Re:I took his AI class (1)

snkline (542610) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240405)

What I would like to see is integration of online learning with things like this Techshop [techshop.ws] . I would love a 'Bioshop' which contains lots of medical/biological lab tools allowing people to learn lecture material online, and do lab work after of course passing some safety courses. The problem of course, is that such a thing is fairly niche compared to Techshop, but I can dream.

Too Late! (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240461)

You can't give someone a master's degree unless you can evaluate that they know their stuff, or else the degree becomes worthless.

Between grade inflation and cheating it seems like that is awfully close to true for the vast majority of degrees today.

Never mind if testing is online... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240549)

How do we know he hasn't hired John Doe to take the test for him?

As is, if you attempt to seek out tutoring people will offer to take stuff on your behalf.

Re:I took his AI class (3, Interesting)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240605)

160,000 students @ $100 each is $16M.

$16M at $32k buys 500 TAs / year.

160K students / 500 TAs is 320 students / TA.

One TA could give each student one dedicated hour every other month and maintain a regular 40 hr per week year round schedule.

That's not that far off from being reasonable.

If you pay the TAs only $15K-20K you would have budget for overhead and profit, or more TAs for more FTF time.

whimsical attitude? (1)

csumpi (2258986) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240441)

You mean the zero effort and no preparation? It was total embarrassment.

Hope he'll put more effort into his new venture.

Re:whimsical attitude? (1)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240523)

I learned a lot so I guess, no?

Hopefully this succeeds (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40239981)

I want to see free education thru the PhD level as some countries offer. There is no reason it should cost a fortune to become educated. It's a legal racket, much like for-profit healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

What stops me from going back to college now in my mid-forties is ROI. I cannot afford to be in massive debt what with a wife and kid. My wife has massive school debt from her degree and it would be grossly unfair to add to that already burdensome bill.

Great idea... praying it succeeds.

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240047)

I want to see free education thru the PhD level as some countries offer.

A PhD is free in the United States. I just completed my Doctorate and I was paid $20,000 per year to do it. In the sciences and engineering fields, at a research university, you're paid off of grant money. Tuition usually either waved or paid for you off the grant.

Now if you go into a non reacher field like the humanities or the pure mathematics, you will have to pay your own way.

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240299)

A PhD is free in the United States. I just completed my Doctorate and I was paid $20,000 per year to do it. In the sciences and engineering fields, at a research university, you're paid off of grant money. Tuition usually either waved or paid for you off the grant.

A PhD who wasn't able to master relatively simple written English. Education ain't what it used to be. :(

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240391)

A PhD who wasn't able to master relatively simple written English. Education ain't what it used to be. :(

First of all it's "Ph.D.:.
Second, "ain't" is not a word. If you are going to chastise someone about gammer and spelling in the English language, you should learn it yourself first.

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240465)

Actually, "ain't" is a contraction of "am I not".

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240475)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain't

Ain't is a colloquialism and contraction for "am not", "is not", "are not", "has not", and "have not" in the common English language vernacular. In some dialects ain't is also used as a contraction of "do not", "does not", and "did not". The usage of ain't is a perennial subject of controversy in English. Widely used by many people, and found in most dictionaries,[1] its use is often considered to be informal, nonstandard, or improper.

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240519)

I think everyone understood what he meant except you, pedant.

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240649)

Everyone understood what the original poster meant too. If someone is going to use poor grammar to chastise someone else on spelling, then they are going to get called out on it.

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240647)

"A PhD is free in the United States."

That is changing. I know of several PhD students in the sciences who sometimes are not paid and have to come up with their own living and tuition costs. The reason is that students are paid and granted tuition wavers because their professors pay those costs out of their grants. However NIH grants once upon a time were awarded to one in three applicants but that rate is now half (officially, but more like a fourth in my experience) the rate it used to be. PhD students in labs without grant money are forced to be teaching assistants, but there are no longer always enough TA spots to go around. This either forces the grad student even further into debt, since long gone are the days when you could graduate debt free without winning the parent lottery, or quit.

The upside is that we overproduce PhDs and have grotesquely done so for the last 40 years. More than 6,000 PhDs were granted last year in the life sciences alone. There are not remotely 6,000 jobs for them, not even before the collapse of the biotech and pharma industries in the late 2000's. Postdocing used to be able to soak up the glut, but postdocs are tied into the same shortage of money as grad students. As the decay of the American university system continues to increase perhaps the PhD glut might finally end. It will be entertaining then to listen to the shrieks of shortages given how loudly employers scream about it now with hundreds of broke, unemployed, and desperate PhDs applying for each opening.

Re:Hopefully this succeeds (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240057)

It's not free, it's paid for by the tax payers. And those countries usually limit who they allow to go to college rather than vocational school because of the costs associated with funding college. What's more the people who receive those degrees tend to make less than what their counterparts in the US do.

That being said, this shouldn't be an all or nothing proposition, there's no reason why getting a PhD shouldn't be affordable for anybody willing to do the work.

That's UnAmerican! (4, Funny)

thatDBA (2626877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40239987)

Everybody knows you can't get a quality education for cheap! This is the land of the Private University that offers freedom by enslaving you in debt.

Re:That's UnAmerican! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240147)

You can get an education for cheap, sure. I've been teaching myself the equivalent of junior/senior year undergrad mathematics just from books. On the other hand, the difference in the experience between this and my time at a top five CS grad program is simply miles and miles and miles apart.
 
It's even inadequate to compare the disparity by saying it's like learning a language from a book versus living where it's spoken natively. If you want to learn French and move to France, you don't just randomly run into the multiple top level French teachers. You don't get asked to help revise the official lexicon, or get access to new parts of the language that literally no more than a dozen people in the world have seen before you. You don't get to hang out with other similarly talented people who are trying to figure out some of the same things you're trying to figure out, who might have some insight into things that are problematic for you.
 
So yes, I think learning on your own is great, which is why I strive to study for an hour or two every day (along with my work, and the rest of my life). But don't mistake learning from books or online courses for what you can get from a great traditional grad. program, or think that somehow you'll make up for the disparity somewhere down the line.

Re:That's UnAmerican! (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240309)

But that's the difference between knowledge and experience. College is poor for the knowledge part of things, but can be great for the experience part of things. The problem is, there are 3 major viewpoints regarding college and all 3 have their flaws:

A) College is about knowledge. This used to be the case when a good chunk of information could only be found in academic libraries, but today a simple Google search can find you the information for all but the most specialized of areas.

B) College is about qualifications. This is the main viewpoint today since we've dumbed high school down to the point where everyone can pass, people need another qualification for most professions that qualification is college.

C) College is about the experience. This is true and the viewpoint I tend to take, but at the same time, there are a lot of cheaper ways to get even better experiences than college, especially if you know what you want to do.

Re:That's UnAmerican! (1)

sarysa (1089739) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240379)

Except the racket is heavily based on public institutions. Look at what's been happening in California for the last 20 years. You're right that it's unamerican -- unencumbered, free market competition should have swept in long, long ago.

I wish Sebastian Thrun all the best.

Re:That's UnAmerican! (2)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240381)

While the end result of your complaint is true, the reason it is true is not likely the one you put forward (private education). With the exception of a fairly new breed of commercial diploma mills (which target those who make poor economic decisions, much like any other predatory industry), private universities in the USA are responding to the same pressure sources public universities are. Public universities have had funding cut, while private universities lost major chunks of their endowments to the latest recession.

Private universities have an extraordinarily long history in the USA, and it's not one of excessive tuition. Excessive tuition is a very recent occurrence, and if it was due entirely (or even mostly) to the existence of private universities as a major educational force it would have started a couple hundred years ago. Given that Harvard's yearly tuition as a top university in 1900 ($150) is only equivalent to about $3k today (compare that to any other university, public or private), it stands to reason there's something else behind the increases than "private means slavery!"

the old idea of a degree is a poor fit for today (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240051)

"The idea of a degree is that you spend a fixed time right after high school to educate yourself"

Some stuff seems to be padded out to fit a 2 or 4 year plan when offering it NON degree / as badges system is better.

http://chronicle.com/article/Badges-Earned-Online-Pose/130241/ [chronicle.com]

We need more Tech schools / apprenticeships (3, Interesting)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240065)

We need more Tech schools / apprenticeships as yes you do need some training but CS is not IT and 2-4 years is a long time to sit in class room with at times learning very few skills needed to do the job.

Re:We need more Tech schools / apprenticeships (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240153)

That's how I got started. I eventually went to school and got a degree and now I'm working on a second one but honestly the "vocational training" school I went to was harder than most college classes except maybe some advanced math. I mean you went to class every day for 6 hours (including labs) and then at night you have a couple hours of reading. I went from basically zero IT knowledge to knowing more than some of my degreed co-workers in something like 9 months. Granted my college education later made me more "well rounded" as a person instead of just a super IT geek so if you can afford the time and money by all means go to university and do a real degree but if you're a hardcore geek who just wants to get out in the real world and get your hands dirty then doing a tech training program is going to be great for you. Of course a lot of jobs want degrees not for "no reason" but for the "well rounded person" part. You don't want a guy with no communication or writing skills with a shaky knowledge of culture and history managing some global department, know what I mean? So, yeah, the degree reqs on higher salary work can be legit but worry about that later if you want it. Maybe you're happy to just stay in the server room and geek out, in that case tech school will probably be better for you.

well rounded person is part but CS is not IT (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240279)

well rounded person is part but CS is not IT. Now communication or writing skills with a shaky knowledge of culture and history managing can be done at a community college and have the jobs skills be in there own schools.

CS is more a high level thing

Do you want a some with a Engineering BA working on your car or some who learned on there own / apprenticeships / tech school?

Other trades have apprenticeships and you learn REAL skills doing them. But It's been said that people with CS do not have needed skills (tech skills) to do the job.

...however, (5, Insightful)

HomoErectusDied4U (1042552) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240069)

As a university instructor I recognize that the writing's on the wall - online courses will inevitably replace many aspects of higher education. Much of what I teach is already freely available on the internet. There are already many online lectures from which I crib material for my own lectures.

That said, there are many important things that simply can't be taught via computer. I am an evolutionary biologist (specifically human evolution), so that is what I know: you can't learn anatomy at the graduate level without cadavers, period. You can't learn biological variation without dissecting and studying many cadavers. You can't learn comparative anatomy without dissecting animals. You can't learn the fossil record without handling the fossils (or high quality casts). You can't learn population genetics without spending time in a sequencing lab. You can't learn field biology without going to the field. You can't learn paleontology without going to the field. There are many things that I learned in my graduate training that simply can't be taught on a computer.

Personal tutelage by a master is similarly an irreplaceable experience. I've learned an enormous amount of information from watching online lectures and taking online courses in subjects outside of my specialties - but I would absolutely not consider myself on par with people who have traditional graduate training in these fields. I loved the AI class - but Professor Thrun never discussed my ideas with me, criticized my writings on the topic, and certainly never helped me design a project and then execute it. I can't call, Skype, or email authorities in AI to chat about the newest papers in the field - because I simply never met them through the online course.

As enthusiastic as I am about the exciting possibilities of newfangled gadgetry, computers and the internet are still tools with limitations. Powerful tools, but not totipotent tools. Sometimes newer isn't better. Sometimes newer is worse.

Re:...however, (2)

shimage (954282) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240171)

One of my degrees is a non-thesis master's and I always thought a degree like that (without any lab experience) basically just a pretty piece of paper. More or less everything useful I learned in grad school, I either learned in the lab or from the people I met at conferences.

when higher edu wants Physical Education (1, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240243)

when higher edu wants Physical Education as a required class it shows that it is a cash grab and some ways a rip off.

Re:when higher edu wants Physical Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240321)

My school had mandatory PE but it was one credit which costs like a third of a three credit class, obviously. Basically you got a credit for learning how to use the school's gym and sports facilities. Not exactly a "cash grab" considering it cost a hell of a lot less than hiring a personal trainer at a commercial gym. Basically the school doesn't want all their grads to be fat fucks or scrawny nerds with no physical health. Can you really consider yourself educated if you have no idea about healthy exercise habits? Being a fat blob on a couch clutching a bucket of chicken-wings is not a behavior for the educated class.

Re:when higher edu wants Physical Education (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240713)

Basically the school doesn't want all their grads to be fat fucks or scrawny nerds with no physical health.

Likely won't help unless they want to change themselves.

Can you really consider yourself educated if you have no idea about healthy exercise habits?

That's not something you need to take a class for. All that information is easily available.

Re:when higher edu wants Physical Education (4, Insightful)

snkline (542610) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240323)

Your problem (and most people's it seems) is that you think higher ed is supposed to be vocational training. That is what trade schools and community colleges should be for. Universities exist not only to train you in a particular field, but also to make you a well rounded educated person. Yes, that even involves some level of education in physical skills you may not possess (I certainly enjoyed my Archery class). Unfortunately our society has grown to value the Bachelor's degree so much, that institutions of higher education are being pushed more and more into being really long, expensive, trade schools.

and if we don't change the system master / MBA (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240521)

and if we don't change the system master / MBA will take over Bachelor's. So then you will have people loaded with loans. Be in school for 6+ years post HS with few real job skills to show for it.

Re:...however, (2)

ZPO (465615) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240407)

Some classes are enhanced by interaction with the professor, other students, and invaluable hands-on lab time. Other classes can be completed online without losing any of the value. Take for example the common core classes of mathematics, liberal arts, history, etc. Does the student gain anything by physically sitting in a classroom? If these classes can be taken care of online for little cost then the student's scarce time and treasure can be leveraged to attend only the courses which benefit from interaction and lab time in a physical university setting.

The key is to select the appropriate tool for the appropriate task. Online isn't always the answer. In residence isn't always the answer. Having additional tools and methods available can make things more efficient.

Labs are not tied to a university... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240443)

There is no reason labs have to be done in university settings.

You could have totally independent, for profit companies running labs for every kind of science that people could take part in. I can also see universities opening up labs only to outside students for a reasonable fee.

As you say, so much learning can be done online... in the end all that will be left for universities is truly the world of higher education, not of freshman level stuff.

Re:...however, (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240681)

I imagine core courses split between lecture and problem sessions will have the lecture portion replaced by digital distribution in the next 20 years or so. The benefits of physically attending a huge lecture are too low for cost-conscious schools to stomach indefinitely, especially if really high-quality lectures by gifted educators can be used.

Re:...however, (1)

Manfre (631065) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240717)

If the current trend of stupidity continues in America, you won't have to worry about whether or not online education is not as good as hands on. You'll have long given up teaching from frustration when a law passes stating you must give equal time to creationist theories.

not college material is on both sides as well (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240119)

there are people going to college who are not cut out off it and there are lot's of classes that should be in college any ways.

MOD PARENT UP AS... (3, Funny)

rueger (210566) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240201)

... I'm not sure. Insightful? Funny? Guess it depends on how you view it...

Re:not college material is on both sides as well (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240249)

The root problem is we've dumbed high school down to the point where everyone pretty much has to graduate high school to get a job. When everyone has a high school diploma people need to distinguish themselves even more so they go for a bachelor's degree, we're slowly dumbing that down to the point where people are going to need to distinguish themselves even more and get a master's degree... and so on and so on.

It isn't about the knowledge. Let's face it, on-the-job training tells you 99% of what you need to do in most jobs, Google can tell you just about every fact you'd ever want to know. As much fun as it is for history buffs to memorize dates, for English buffs to memorize poetry, for science buffs to memorize obscure equations, and for math buffs to memorize 1000 digits of pi, its really not all that useful when you have a smart phone that can look any of that up in 5 seconds.

Re:not college material is on both sides as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240339)

Google can tell you just about every fact you'd ever want to know.

Beging educated is not memorizing facts. You cannot google critical thinking.

Re:not college material is on both sides as well (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240343)

No, it's about how to USE that knowledge, to combine facts and techniques to solve problems. THAT is the value of, and the supposed goal, of higher education.

Despite the fact that it has become a de-facto job credential. . .

Re:not college material is on both sides as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240403)

But the more college is dumbed down (easy to pass/cheat online courses), the more kids will go to college. This will be awesome because:

1. stat looks good on paper

2. schools make more money

3. (which comes from) more loans from the government

4. (which can't be defaulted on, so) more dependence on government

An awesome way to further destroy the middle class and strengthen the elite leadership.

Of course it is possible... (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240127)

Of course it is possible to get a world class education for $100 or less, but education isn't why people go to college. The real reasons to get a college degree go beyond simple knowledge:

A) Get a worthless piece of paper to distinguish yourself. Sure, it isn't good, it isn't a positive trend, but in many fields unless you have a bachelor's or master's degree your application won't even be looked at.

B) Provides opportunities for networking with like minded students and employers. In high school most people couldn't meet with very many like minded students, especially if they were into computer science. There is a reason many start-ups happen in college, you can get all the "right" type of people, you get the people with vision, you get the code monkeys skilled with every programming language under the sun, you get the hardware people and you have thousands of potential customers right at your university.

C) It provides a chance to go out and see the world. Being a student you usually don't have much of anything tying you down to a single country. I mean, sure, you've got family, but spending a year in France, six months in Singapore, a few weeks in Andorra isn't anything major.

D) It provides a lot of "hobby time" to work on pet projects and research, especially at graduate level. When you are employed for a company, everything needs to be justified in terms of profit. In college you can just do things for the heck of it.


Every "book knowledge" thing you can learn in college can be learned for free online. In the rare case it can't be found online, it can be found in the textbook which you can buy without registering for the class. Yes, you do have a handful of really good professors, but the best thing they provide isn't book knowledge, it is guidance.

Re:Of course it is possible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240197)

When you are employed for a company, everything needs to be justified in terms of profit. In college you can just do things for the heck of it.

Be employed at a good university, pension for life, good salary and you can work on your pet project as long as you want that is if you want to work at all !

Re:Of course it is possible... (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240417)

Only if you get tenure.

Re:Of course it is possible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240529)

non-tenure jobs in academia have the job security of bucket of warm piss in a forest fire. i've been "let go" from three of them for reasons ranging from trivial to oughta-be-illegal.

Re:Of course it is possible... (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240543)

Of course it is possible to get a world class education for $100 or less, but education isn't why people go to college.

Not anymore, though that used to be the primary purpose of higher education. Back when it only cost $150/year ($3,000 in today's currency) to go to one of the top private universities in the US, that's what college was for. Of course, there was always a networking component, but that's actually also been true of just about every practical post-secondary endeavor in existence. I'm not sure why the latter is so often overlooked or the networking in non-higher-educational endeavors considered so much less useful as to be not worth comparing, except perhaps it conflicts with the goal of excusing higher education as better or more noble.

Now that the focus has shifted from education, university admission appeals (or can be made to appeal) to people who cannot or will not use the educational opportunities a place in a university affords them. This increases the demand for finite resources, with predictable results. It increases the number of people holding something that was once useful for filtering spots for finite employment positions, again with predictable results.

I'm all for higher education, but only for people who have a drive to be there. You are either driven to succeed and get in on merit, or you are driven to succeed and overcome the financial barriers to it. If you want summer camp, maybe we should start an industry for that. Then the campers won't make it all the harder for those who are truly driven to getting a high-quality education. On the other hand, I guess those who are must just simply look at them as another hurdle, since that's currently what they are.

Re:Of course it is possible... (2)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240595)

I would say a graduate degree indicates that one can create valid knowledge. I know that the for-profit business programs, promoted not only by for-profit but also public universities, have significantly degraded the meaning of a graduate degree, but that does not mean that we must accept that education is no longer a possibility.

Certain things may change over time. We may not all go to work and physically collaborate. We may no longer need to pay huge amounts for journals, or need to pay huge amount to store and bind the journals. But to learn to think, to know the difference between opinion and valid statement, requires some greater interaction than listening to a talking head or reading a book.

What I can see is freelance graduate advisors who charge aspiring PhD candidates hourly or fixed rate for graduate thesis. One may say that not everyone needs a graduate degree, to which the reply would be to say that $100 dollars may get you a post graduate education, but not a graduate degree, or at least not a cheap one since I can probably get a sheet of paper saying I have a graduate degree for less than $100.

This is not to say that online education is not valuable. The amount of good content online is soon going to be better than most of what is in print. But a graduate degree is very specific thing, and saying that $100 will get one is like saying that we graduate high school students based on a series of simpleton tests.

Except for its not a masters degree..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240157)

Has what constitutes a "masters degree" really gone that far downhill? I was under the impression that a REAL masters degree required a lot of research, and often a lot of help and guidance from a dedicated advisor who actually reads what you write and helps you along....in other words something you cannot buy for $100. If he wants to sell some pieces of paper that says "I watched a couple of videos and took a couple of tests" then fine, let him do that. But calling it a "masters degree" is complete bullshit, its not a masters degree no matter how much he calls it that.

It is a good start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240195)

I've been interested in the online education movement for a while. Udacity is certainly better than nothing, but the course content on basic subjects isn't even up to the level of a community college.

If they can't significantly improve the level of the courses, the "masters" degree for $100 won't be worth anything to employers.

A disaster in the making (-1, Flamebait)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240215)

If this man is allowed to cheapen the price of an education in this way it could lead to disaster for the Educational Establishment. The government must step in and regulate this market before people get the idea that they're paying too much for a piece of paper with fancy calligraphy. Students must be forced to enslave themselves with massive debt for years in order to enrich the Establishment or they won't believe that there is any value in all the bullshit that is shoveled at them in the name of a Degree.

Whoops, too late.

His AI class sucked. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240317)

His AI class sucked. Phoned it in, completely unprepared, drawing on a piece of paper under a camera. It's was an example of how *NOT* to do an online course.

Hopefully he'll put some real effort into his new venture.

Re:His AI class sucked. (1)

snkline (542610) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240463)

His Robot Car class was much better, although still not quite up to the standard where I would pay for it. Now the MITx Circuits class..... THAT is freakin awesome and very professionally done. I can't wait for the next set of course offerings from MIT and Harvard over that system.

Re:His AI class sucked. (1)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240585)

I took his lessons, and read a bunch of other resources like a mother fucker to get a good grade and I learned a lot. That was the point and I think for a self motivated learner who is willing to search out sources it was a good class.

should we move most gen edu to community colleges? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240355)

should we move most gen edu to community colleges? With that ending up being a new base level Degree. And from there on the idea of Degrees is rework to them being more about what you are learning and are filled to the skills and not the fixed time tables of the old degree system.

Then after that you can stay at the community college and take vol classes, go to a tech school, take a apprenticeship, go on to a pre med school (reworked with any need higher level gen edu)

College movies of the future (3, Funny)

thereitis (2355426) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240369)

No serorities, frat parties, or jocks. Just a guy sitting in front of his computer in his underwear filling out quizzes. The plot will center around the reliability of his Internet connection and the pesky neighbours who keep knocking at his door.

This more look like the description of a future.. (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240427)

LAN party.

Re:College movies of the future (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240447)

No serorities, frat parties, or jocks. Just a guy sitting in front of his computer in his underwear filling out quizzes. The plot will center around the reliability of his Internet connection and the pesky neighbours who keep knocking at his door.

Dude, you have totally got to log onto our frat's site and get pledged. You want to be a bro at I Tappa Key, man!

Prediction @ IVETA 1999 (1)

barv (1382797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240423)

Back in 1999 I read a paper on "Using the WWW for education" at IVETA http://www.iveta.org/members/index.php/IVETA-Basics/What-is-IVETA.html [iveta.org]

In the conclusion I wrote:

"What Will Really Happen?

What paradigm will come to dominate education?
There will ultimately be only two or three certifying organizations for each vocation. These organizations will produce marque qualifications of trusted standard, like Coca-Cola or Pepsi for soft drinks; McDonald's for Burgers.

The race has started. Microsoft and Novell have become the certifying organizations for certificates in computing. They have achieved this by publishing a syllabus and franchising a worldwide testing network. City & Guilds are paralleling that evolution. They seek trainers, and already offer franchised testing all over the world. The University of Minnesota has recently taken the first step toward becoming a worldwide agricultural university.

There is room at the top of each vocation for two or three testing authorities. Whoever captures recognition as the quality examiner will come to be the possessor of a marque that is comparable in value to the Netscape or Amazon or even Microsoft domain marques."

I feel somewhat vindicated by this article. I did not anticipate the dotcom bust or expect Netscape to fall under the monopoly onslaught of Microsoft's IE. And the MCSE appears to be of limited value, mainly used for the maintenance of Microsoft products.

Tertiary educators were too greedy to move to the online model as quickly as they could have. Those that further delay will risk sinking into relative obscurity and existing in the future as highly paid trainers for the marque institutions' qualifications.

College Degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240471)

Businesses: "He spent only $100 for a Master's? Must be worthless."

Re:College Degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240567)

Businesses: "Your resume looks ok. Can you send me the contact information of some references?"

Frank Zappa knew the answer years ago : (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240569)

"If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library." - Frank Zappa

His words are just as true today.

What isn't often said is that the diploma is used as a means of bamboozling
suckers into believing that they must obtain their educations only at an organized
institution of higher learning. Sure, this is sometimes true, but the institutions would
have us believe it is always true, which is incorrect.

In 10 years, all these "disruptive" edtechs will.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240601)

Look as stupid as the ones that cropped up in the 90s. Learning and Education are NOT the same thing, and they never have been. Education offers life changing experiences, conversations, moral support, personal mentorship, confidence, and achievement. DIY learning is and has always been free. The likelihood of real and lasting success is much less overall for DIY learners who do not attend college. (For instance there have been very few contributors to science from outside of the formal educational system).

Udacity, Udemy, Codecademy, Coursera, MITx, etc. will all be footnotes that only supply us with perspective on what Education actually is. Those programs are not it.

Wathcing a bunch of videos is NOT education, and it's barely learning.

Please make free online (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240609)

text books. Html 5 interactive text books. Start with K-5, then move on up.

Please.

It's not about the cost (1)

chrism238 (657741) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240611)

It's not about the cost, nor even about the content - it's about the acceptance of the received qualification. This pathway will have little value until prospective employers recognise its value as being equivalent to bricks-and-mortar qualifications.

Long way to go (1)

Branka96 (628759) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240655)

I have just finished a couple of online classes with udacity, Applied Cryptography CS387 and Design of Computer Programs CS212. The latter class was fine although they totally messed up the final. Each problem required corrections and/or clarifications. CS387 was a joked taught by a novice. Things like using padding that you can’t reverse, or sending encrypted messages that only a person who intercepts multiple of them can decrypt (the intended recipients were unable to decrypt the message they received). Or how do you like to have a “professor” who after several attempts over several days can’t correctly phrase a question on the final. Happily we now have a video giving the “correct answer” to a nonsense question. Final stupidity, he subtracted 8 from 64 and got 58. Incompetent in my opinion.
That is what you have to put up with right now. There is a long way for this to be of serious value.

Nerd alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40240667)

Lamda Lamda Lamda is my frat bros. I taught myself a bunch of front end stuff but to learn anything hard I need the focus of a program. Schools give you a smorgasboard to help you decide where your "passion" is (mine is money right now) and I;m totally stoked to find a career. My problem is, I already went to school, and yet I am still looking for a career (my other career is painting pictures, which is awesome). SO I guess my question is, once I'm done bonging beer (I'm 42 and still partying) where can I (and others) find a mentor? Because without a mentor, there is no career. Not to mention Kaplan/Phoenix/WaPo axis of evil.

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