Wednesday Weekly Reader: The Digital Revolution Edition

Some weeks, I must admit, there is more to read than time for reading (and time to write about it). Today I’m offering up a couple of long-reads that I’m working my way through plus a shorter piece, all of them wrapped around new trends in college learning and admissions brought about by the ‘digital revolution.’

Starting off with the shorter piece…

Walkway near the Quad

Image via Wikipedia

1.  Virtual and Artificial, But 58,000 Want Course. The New York Times wrote about a free online course in Artificial Intelligence taught by two Silicon Valley experts, offered by Stanford. 58,000 is nearly four times the size of Stanford’s entire student body. Absolutely worth reading.

The two scientists said they had been inspired by the recent work of Salman Khan, an M.I.T.-educated electrical engineer who in 2006 established a nonprofit organization to provide video tutorials to students around the world on a variety of subjects via YouTube.

“The vision is: change the world by bringing education to places that can’t be reached today,” said Dr. Thrun.

An interesting analysis of this story, written by Kevin Carey, policy director of The Education Sector and who blogs at The Quick and the Ed, can be found here.

A course credit from Stanford says two things about the bearer. First, “I learned a certain body of knowledge as represented by the course.” Second, “I won a highly-competitive admissions tournament for the privilege of attending Stanford.” So Stanford can’t start handing out “Stanford credits” to tens of thousands of people around the world who didn’t win the tournament, because then there’s no point in having the tournament. However, there’s nothing stopping any other, less-selective colleges and universities from awarding credit to students with a “statement of accomplishment” from Stanford, or from employers using that information to make hiring decisions, and so forth.

We’re going to be seeing more and more online courses — at every level of education, not just higher ed.

2.  The Digital Revolution and Higher Education. Further related to online learning and what the public (read: students and parents) and college presidents think about it, the Pew Internet and Pew Social & Demographic Trends released a study on the topic this week. Here’s a link to the study, which can be read online or downloaded as a pdf. A couple of clips from the Executive Summary:

The Value of Online Learning. The public and college presidents differ over the educational value of online courses. Only 29% of the public says online courses offer an equal value compared with courses taken in a classroom. Half (51%) of the college presidents surveyed say online courses provide the same value.

The Prevalence of Online Courses. More than three-quarters of college presidents (77%) report that their institutions now offer online courses. These courses are more prevalent in some sectors of higher education than in others. While 89% of four-year public colleges and universities offer online classes, just 60% of four-year private schools offer them.

3.  The End of College Admissions as We Know It. This long read was written by Kevin Carey (already mentioned in story #1) and published in Washington Monthly (in a college-themed issue offering their rankings of colleges). Carey provides deep background on the college admissions process and how it has effectively been off-limits to lower-income students who often do not have access to the information they need to consider applying to colleges. ConnectEDU may help level the playing field.

If you want to buy shares of stock, bid on antiques, search for a job, or look for Mr. Right in 2011, you will likely go to a marketplace driven by the electronic exchange of information. There will be quick, flexible transactions, broad access to buyers and sellers, and powerful algorithms that efficiently match supply and demand. If you are a student looking for a college or a college looking for a student, by contrast, you’re stuck with an archaic, over-complicated, under-managed system that still relies on things like bus trips to airport convention centers and the physical transmission of pieces of paper. That’s why under-matching is so pervasive. The higher education market only works for students who have the resources to overcome its terrible inefficiency. Everyone else is out of luck.

There, that should keep us all reading for a while.

I feel somewhat guilty for offering up such long reads; if you’re interested in these posts and you haven’t yet met Instapaper, now is a good time to sign on.

As always, please let me know (in comments, below) if you found any of this useful. And feel free to share links to anything you’ve read…

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One response to “Wednesday Weekly Reader: The Digital Revolution Edition

  1. Pingback: For-Profit Higher Ed: Notes By A Sympathetic (But Impatient) Traditionalist « higher education management group

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