June 5, 2012

"Craigslisting" Higher Education

Empty ClassroomI just completed my second course on Udacity. In seven weeks, I learned the material covered in a semester-long college course, taught by one of the premier scientists in the field. I watched lectures when I wanted, and at the pace I wanted. It was a great experience - I learned the content in a way that was better than a college course in almost every way.

In short, online education is very quickly approaching the point where it is better than traditional education. That got me thinking about what will happen as people start to move toward online education.

As Craigslist began to put newspapers out of business, we realized that news is a public good, subsidized by classified ads, and that as ads become less profitable, we risk losing the benefits of newspapers.

Similarly, I wonder if the research that goes on at universities is a public good that is subsidized by tuition. As learning becomes cheaper and moves online, what will happen to that research? Are universities about to be "craigslisted"?

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