Beyond Open Courseware"Opinion"
By now you are sick of hearing about Paul Ryan, so let's change the subject.
TRD readers are well aware of the Khan Academy, the Open Course initiative, and websites like Coursera. They understand that education is now not restricted just to the G7 nation residents but is available wherever an Internet signal can be received.
The result: we have millions of people being educated world-wide and the ignorance barrier has the potential to be broached all around the world and students placed on a level playing field of equal opportunity. This means that the cream of humanity will rise to the top.
This will liberate people from ignorance and empower them to greatness while taming the 556% increase in tuition costs to attend an accredited American University; yet the University still has a strangle-hold on granting a degree. In fact, education has become a monopoly industry.
That piece of diploma paper is essential to employment.
Coursera has approached the matter by performing testing and issuing a completion certificate as proof of course understanding. The Khan Academy will likely soon follow suit. Some employers accept the certificate as proof of course completion. Some Universities will offer course credit upon presentation of the certificate but none will issue a degree from an accredited University solely based upon certificate compilation.
Thus the next logical step for the Khan Academy is to offer a High School Diploma to students completing certain tracks and for Coursera to do the same for college classes. Note that Khan Academy is totally free and open whereas Coursera is a "for profit" enterprise and has not fully divorced itself from the monopoly model. But it will be easier for colleges to go totally open thanks to the work of Sal Khan. The Khan Academy could easily evolve into the Khan University.
Beyond the diploma however it is a necessity to treat the acquisition of knowledge as a continuum and the Open Course-ware movement as a way to satisfy a thirst and demand for knowledge. Getting credit for it all is easy enough, simply database course completions and provide a transcript by student request.
Now the human race is no longer enslaved to or by education access.
If you are a political liberal you have to feel good about this since you see education and knowledge as a part of the Commons, a resource that all humans are entitled to. If you are a teacher you have to admit people seek to automate you out of business. if you are head of a major University you see the handwriting on the wall. The industry is about to be automated and that means a reduction in teachers, administrators, and bureaucrats. Ideally that should reflect less taxing of property owners.
Within the education industry there is a chance to automate schools on a schedule compatible with Baby-Boomer generation of planned retirements; thus a teacher retires and is replaced by classroom monitors who keep an orderly computerized class room. Teachers now run labs and act as sports and gymnastics coaches. Slowly the teachers retire and automation creeps in a little more to the local public schools, colleges, and Universities.
Observers who watch closely see sports programs shifting from a school sponsorship to a community sponsorship. It begins with sports that have a low level of sports income. By dumping those sport coaches the staff is reduced and the now phased out coach is free to develop a league, form a team, and compete on a regional level using leased community facilities. High income and heavily supported sports like football and basketball are retained for their income value. The attrition is slow but sure.
Art teachers and music teaching is shifting to a contract teacher model. Here the teacher signs a one year contract and if teacher performance is shoddy they are replaced by a new teacher once the contract expires.
As teachers retire and the attrition occurs than teacher union leverage declines thus wages tend to be capped or tied to an inflation index. Unless a school district or a college or University is expanding then budgets are being cut. So, colleges and Universities are growing horizontally. Now open courses threaten that expansion.
I think of today's education model much like I think of the old fashioned money bag. The strings are being pulled tighter, the opening is narrowing, but the bag can still handle the same volume.
Because education is so vital to us it is an industry where the watchword is "evolution" and not "revolution." Yet over time the effect of change is revolutionary.