Whats old is new! Over a hundred years ago leaders at schools such as the University of Wisconsin (Van Hise) and the University of Chicago (Harper) were building correspondence courses and extension programs. These efforts were meant to democratize education for a growing, industrializing nation and to pull teachers, business leaders, policy makers, and ‘everyday citizens’ deeper into the higher education infrastructure.
Much is being made about online learning and the actions by high profile professors and universities in extending their coursework and intellectual property beyond their recent boundaries (MITx, etc.) Steve Kolowich of Inside Higher Education investigates elite universities and their moves to MOOCS (massively open online courses) and extending their assets. From IHE;
Stanford is not the only elite university to focus faculty and administrative brainpower on the question of how to create inexpensive versions of its courses available to massive online audiences without sacrificing quality. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently opened MITx, a subsidiary nonprofit aimed at providing top-flight interactive courses online at a “modest” price. The MITx project is actively drawing on the creativity and expertise of the M.I.T. computer science faculty, with involvement from the university’s provost.
“We see a future where world-leading educators are at the center of the education conversation, and their reach is limitless, bounded only by the curiosity of those who seek their knowledge; where universities such as Stanford, Harvard, and Yale serve millions instead of thousands,” the author of the posting. “In this future, ours will be the platform where the online conversation between educators and students will take place, and where students go to for most of their academic needs.”
More than 335,000 people have registered for the five Stanford-provided courses in the Coursera catalog, which comprise courses in natural language processing, game theory, probabilistic graphic models, cryptography and design and analysis of algorithms. The three non-Stanford courses are in model thinking (Michigan), software as a service and computer vision (Berkeley).
There is so much to come in the evolution of higher education that its not hard to be drawn into it, but is all this really new? The history and growth of US higher education provides useful frameworks for exploring these changes and better taking advantage of the opportunities ahead.