Universities are utilizing new media to distribute tuition-paid, classroom content to the public for free, which will soon force education reform. The format of the education system in the United States hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years, but the rise of new distribution tools such as online video, podcasts, mobile and desktop apps, virtual worlds, and live video-conferencing are able to improve quality, increase accessibility, and reduce cost.
YouTube is My Teacher
YouTube is a great, informal example of how online video can be an effective teaching tool as the biggest tutorial source on the planet. My dad found out how to change the oil on his Prius by looking on YouTube. Someone had filmed a step-by-step walk-through on how to change it on his specific make, model, and year and he was easily able to find it through a simple search. This was easy for a non-tech savvy baby boomer to do. It was also completely free.
Many technology barriers have been overcome to make this all possible. One, the cost of video recording devices has dropped. Secondly, the editing software and the computers to run them have become much cheaper and simpler to use. Another is the dramatic increase in internet bandwidth that has allowed so much video to be uploaded and hosted online making YouTube the mecca it is.
My dad was able to find a tutorial made by an amateur, but universities and students can also take advantage of these tools in a big way. Many big name schools such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and many more now distribute classroom content to the masses for free via customized eLearning platforms. This key indicator shows what is possible in the not too distant the future.
The Future System
The future of higher education will offer more specific, niche topics, make the best professors in each subject much more accessible, and will provide new revenue streams for universities.
When I was a business undergrad, I took one of probably six Marketing 101 classes offered. I used ratemyprofessor.com to find which professor was the best out of the group and made my selection. My professor was good, but hadn’t won any awards for being the best lecturer, publisher, researcher or any other similar credentials to my knowledge.
What if the 25 best Marketing 101 professors in the whole world recorded their lectures for one semester and then sold them so that anyone who needed to take Marketing 101 could watch them? A professional video crew would come in to film it from every angle with TV broadcast quality. The professors could focus all of their energy and effort on producing really good lectures each week for one semester and prevent the tendency to slack off a bit after the 15th identical semester.
Professors could also record more customized sections based on how well the students grasp the subject matter. If they seem to be struggling, they can watch another explanation or example of what was just covered. If they pick it up quickly, students can move on.
The objection many would raise here would be that all of those other Marketing 101 professors would no longer have jobs and that even those top 25 would no longer be needed after that first semester. My counter is to shed light on an untapped opportunity.
I graduated in 2009 and while I was in college only one internet marketing class was offered and it was only an elective. After college, I was able to dive much deeper into the subject by learning about SEO, social media, analytics, programming, and display advertising for example. With only one class offered, much of this wasn’t able to be touched on at all. To step into a professional role to work with these things and add value required a deeper understanding that I didn’t initially have.
All of those extra professors could now focus on more focused courses allowing student to be better prepared to add value right after graduation. Students wouldn’t have to just major in general marketing, but could drill down to focus on digital or research marketing if they wanted to. Think about how the relevance of corporate training is valuable because it directly relates to a needed job skill.
Digital is Not as Effective
Some might also object that online education isn’t as effective as a physical classroom. Here I suggest a hybrid approach. I think it would be most effective to watch the recorded lectures with a high quality movie theater type viewing experience at an actual campus and then break out into an in-person, class-like discussion guided by a graduate aid with standardized accompanying material. The social collaboration allows better digestion of the material, helps solidify it into long term memory, and improves student accountability.
This is also where the aid can help gauge how well the class understands the subject and either cue the review to reinforce it or move on to the next topic.
This approach is more cost effective than our current system because it scales and allows the same number of faculty to teach more students. In other words, the same number of faculty can provide more value-add, revenue generating material.
Practically speaking, there currently isn’t a nationwide or global system set up to facilitate this approach, but individual universities can take the initiative and create a new revenue stream in the process. Not only could a university itself offer more diversified courses, they could license them out to other schools looking to take small steps to adopt this new system. Many universities also have sections of the campus dedicated to professional classes where student tuition covers the entire cost of the education, even at state schools (as opposed to when the government subsidizes the majority of the cost at some state schools). These revenue generating classes could be expanded and bring in more revenue in the long run with only minimal additional expense. Additionally, many companies world-wide could utilize this content for cost effective corporate training.
Whole university systems such as the California State University system could also take advantage by not offering the same redundant course at 26 campuses. After undergoing hundreds of millions of dollars in state budget cuts over the last few years, they will need to find creative ways to restructure their system to reduce cost and increase revenue. This is one way to help.
There are plenty of subjects and levels of education that can’t take on this new approach. Many graduate MBA, Law, and Medical programs for example require more intimate coaching where the professor needs the ability to better tailor their instruction based on how well the students grasp the teaching. These types of programs also require group projects and collaboration as a fundamental part of the learning process that wouldn’t be able to be given with this new approach.
It’s your turn. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you see examples of this shift or any wholes in my argument?
Listen to me speak on 7 Social Media Trends on November 27th in San Diego.