Is this the beginning of the end for the traditional University system ?


I am actually registered in two courses on a website which is part of the  “Massive Open Online Courses,” ( MOOC) system so called because they are free and online – and offered by some of the best-known universities in the world . With Stanford University, Duke university and others joining in,  a class-room of 90,000 people is not unheard of. With this scale, a free education and certification at the end of the process, does this mean the end of traditional university as we know it? I would argue that this is not the case and the good old university system, with its brick and mortar  infrastructure will still remain. Here are a few reasons why.

Firstly, the University system as we know it today, is very old – more than a thousand years old, with Al-Azhar University dating back to 988 A.D. Common sense dictates that if something has survived so long, it is for a good reason, and is unlikely to be discarded so fast. Especially, such a complex institution as the University.

Secondly, the learning model that online courses offer is not amenable to learning for all levels of students, and also the quality of interaction and learning is suspect. While each one of us learns differently, the general notion of learning i.e., by critically reflecting, asking questions and discussing and debating with others does not really exist online as it does in a real life classroom setting. This gives the traditional system an edge, that is not present in the online model.

Thirdly, will this online education be as recognized as the “regular,” education? The credibility of a degree from Phoenix University is not the same as that from a regular university, many would argue.

But, there is also the counter argument that the world of education is shifting. The way that all of us are getting information,  knowledge and ideas is increasingly shifting to an online base. This is a result of the online, information revolution, which is in some ways global ( barring those remote places which don’t have internet access).

So, no matter whether we believe in it or not, the MOOCS are here to stay. Will the market shake up their model and remove them from the scene, like any other start-up, or will they evolve into more stable forms? We may not know for sure, but what we do know is that there are thousands and thousands of students signing up for these courses and that is a fact we should not ignore, when debating about their success.




0 responses to “Is this the beginning of the end for the traditional University system ?”

  1. Good post. Interesting. But we take a different view. “Firstly, the University system as we know it today, is very old – more than a thousand years old, with Al-Azhar University dating back to 988 A.D.” Buggy whips, too, are “very old;” and yet have no meaningful place in modern transportation. In fact, you and we could come up with an inexhaustible list of things that were around for a long time and have fallen into irrelevance. Our view is that this is the beginning of a very exciting time – akin to the printing press being invented again, only this time faster and better and making learning accessible to far more people. Don’t compare the University of Phoenix to first-rate universities. The top universities are offering Excellent courses. Thoreau’s vision – that our cities become as universities – may be coming true.

  2. According to my sense, if something has survived over a long period of time, it because of its adaptability to the changing environment. Take Tech for example which representing the traditional education system. It keeps changing its names and missions during four different ages. What come next must be anticipated right away, otherwise ‘tsunami’ of different perspectives will do the rest. In evolution of life, each species only have two options, whether evolve or extinct, in layman terms stay exist or wipe off from the performance stage.

    On the other hand, innovation of MOOCs is a trend because it provides new opportunity as well as opening new world in almost every aspect. Online classes give a broad civilized gate for everyone who has internet connection to interact with University education. Theoretically, even folks from isolated area somewhere in the corner of Lo-Manthang, Nepal can get involve in this new system of education, as long as they have a proper internet connection. Furthermore, considering this as a very awesome experience if people from Viti Levu, Fiji can interact in the class and share their knowledge in navigating the Pacific Ocean.

    I think it is still premature to say that either MOOCs will become the next big thing or not. But one thing for sure, this phenomena will sweep the whole countries, finding its own niche to survive, and establish its own society.

  3. I think you are right. One must wonder what the academic world will be like 50 years from now, or even 10 years from now. I, for one, hope that the prestige associated with a PhD from a brick and mortar institution remains. I hypothesize that as online PhDs become more common, more and more people will get them. I am afraid that after all this hard work I’ve put in, there’s a chance that a PhD won’t really be a “big deal”. I hope that this never happens!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *