Khan Academy is amazing. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. This one guy starts out by teaching his cousins remotely and puts it on youtube, then ends up creating hundreds of videos and teaching millions of people. It has everything: Science, Math, Finance, History, Computer Science, and more. The amazing thing is - it’s all free!
Contrast this with the price of higher education in this country. It’s been skyrocketing, partly due to government subsidies, but that’s not the point of this post.
It seems the “online education” space is flourishing. Many classes in this space are free or very inexpensive. Coursera allows you to take courses from leading institutions like Stanford, Princeton, and Emory University. Places like codecademy (free) and codeschool (sometimes free) offer to teach you to program.
The Death of College?
It all leads me to wonder, is there any point in going to college anymore? College has so many other benefits other than the obvious text-book knowledge: learning to work with others, the social life, the football team, and the accountability (not to mention the quality associated with a degree). But to me, it seems like these benefits could be achieved in different (less expensive) ways. The degree of course could not, but perhaps something like certifications could be just as good?
You’ve always been able to just buy books and teach yourself, or learn by doing, so let’s not overestimate the potential of online-learning. But with so many alternatives cropping up, and the advantages of college being questionable, it’s easy to imagine a future of education where school is less expensive.
Sure that’s all great, but are these “schools” sustainable? What is the business model? Well, Khan Academy is a not-for-profit, so it’s future is only dependent on the generosity of donors. The others are normal companies. Some of them offer free samplers with normal courses costing money. Coursera and other like them will most likely charge only for the certificate, not the actual learning. This is a promising business model.
Betting on the Student
Couple inexpensive online education with something like Upstart, and you have completely “free” education (paid for later), without assistance from the government. (Upstart allows angel investors to give college-age kids a lump sum in return for a percentage of future earnings.) The only difference being that instead of being saddled with a boat-load of debt, students would only need to give up some small percentage of income for a few years, and only if they are successful.
Various ways to learn just about anything: