Is education the next industry that will be killed by the internet?

With recent news that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be offering courses online free of charge, along with the success of teaching models such as the Khan Academy on YouTube, Forbes contributor Tim Worstall wonders if free and online is the next step that education will take.

It’s a valid question, if an institution with as much prestige as MIT is willing to package some of its educational materials without charging, who is to say that other institutions won’t be forced to follow suit. And if that is the case, will students seeking higher education choose to pay for it if it is available cost-free?

Worstall argues that the fact that the MIT program will allow students not only to learn but to take examinations to verify that they have absorbed the information presented is a key to the changing dynamic in education that this could potentially lead to.

Obviously these things are going to be easier in the humanities and the social sciences than the hard sciences. But it’s possible to see how the educational world might change in the coming years. People doing their degrees from home, quite possibly while still working, mixing and matching videos, books, CD Roms. All of which can already be done of course, but now MIT is adding the examination part, the ability to actually gain a full degree through this method.

He continues with a point that rings true for anyone who has had to pay a tuition bill: “Why spend $30-50,000 a year to go away to school when you can gain the same or better degree at home for $3,000 a year?”

Obviously this method works better in things such as math, science and engineering rather than the humanities, which rely much more on interactive class discussion to explore materials, but would you, as an educator, see this as a good or bad thing?

Read Worstall’s full piece at Forbes.com

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