Monday, August 22, 2011

The Future of Higher Education

In about an hour, I'll have my first class as an assistant professor. Lo and behold I stumble upon two articles about the future of high education. The first is this article by econ prof James Miller who warns that increasing technological sophistication will eventually render flesh-and-blood professors obsolete. He advises new faculty to "get out while you can."

In contrast, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports a study of community college students who use online courses. They, in general, do worse than ones who go to a physical class. I can think of several sources of selection bias (those more likely to use online courses have less time to study, for example) but the basic theory that a lack of structure and community inhibit performance is believable as well.

I don't know what the future will hold but, in general, when technology makes things easier people favor to make up that difference with more leisure, not productivity.
Still, there's no doubt that, survive or die, online learning will be a critical skill for educators.

Interestingly, if both of these articles are to be taken seriously then this spells danger for the professors at the country's best schools since such are most likely to have (a) the funds needed to purchase the inevitably expensive super computers to run these automated classes and (b) the driven students who are the best position to take advantage of virtual learning. One must wonder how employers will read letters of recommendations from PROFESSORBOT-5000.


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Jenny said...

LOL I think some of my live professors acted like PROFESSORBOT-5000. But I agree that online education has serious problems.