Opening Up Higher Education

With the proliferation of websites (Udacity, Coursera, iTunesU) offering full online higher education courses to the public for free, largely comprised of instructional video, many people are asking how these Technological changes will actually impact Higher Education. The form itself is not a very novel one; it is a recorded lecture, a visual version of the stale, one-way “teaching” that happens at many Universities, without the benefits of Office Hours or comments on papers and problem sets. It does not take advantage of the unique capabilities that new media has to offer us. There are some educational tech startups that are trying to change this under-utilization, the simplest model is one that has been used since educational software was big in the 90’s–interactive, live-updated quizzes. Khan Academy, while it is not aimed directly towards Higher Education since the Mathematics that it covers in its exercises is typically taught in K-12, is taking this one step further by making sure that quizzes are customized and the website tracks students’ individual paths and struggles.

I think the revolution in Higher Education, and Education in general, will come in waves in the next few years until well-established old institutions (like high Universities) will be forced to adapt to the changing times or risk losing support, money, and talent. You can teach yourself many subjects for free right now, and it’s not too grueling– Codecademy is interactive and starts at the very beginning of programming so that anyone can start learning Javascript or HTML. As students are more self-motivated, have more opportunities to learn things on their own, and come to school already having a background in subjects that they are interested in, Higher Education institutions will have to come up with things to offer that a virtual world cannot give the students. They will have to prove what they are worth!

Note: Here’s a very nice Boston-centric guide to free and cheap online classes from BostInno; most can be taken elsewhere but some are brick-and-mortar enterprises that hold online as well as in-person classes.


Hey! I'm a 19-year-old student at Tufts University where I am majoring in Math. I'm from Upstate New York and was the only Hindu in my small-town public school. I love artichokes and eyeliner and lifehacking. I have a ton of interests, but most of them fall under the umbrellas of Education/Learning, Media/Entertainment, Mathematics, Design, or Technology. I have been inseparable from my laptop(s) since I was a xanga-layout-making, neopoint-hoarding 12-year-old.

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