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14 October 2012


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Jennifer Fitz

Absolutely possible. Way back when I was entering State U, there were brochures about how to test out of required classes. No reason an enterprising college or university couldn't take that model and build on it -- say by offering a good, well-supervised test-through program combined with degrees awarded after you complete the remainder of your coursework on-site.

Meanwhile, many courses already operate on this model -- the professor gives a weekly lecture to a huge audience, TA's do the small-group assistance the other two days of the week. No real reason the lecture needs to be given live.


Jennifer Fitz. That's not a new idea at all. Back in the late 60s my dad took courses at a state university in which the lecture part of the course was aired on television and students only gathered on site for the TA small group assistance.


I think we will move to the free online class model with competency testing as a way to verify abilities. When I worked in the IT world, I gained many certifications. I could not have passed them without extensive studying. And, many tests give real life scenarios that it would be difficult to answer without comprehension of the material. I personally think the next boon will be certification and testing companies.


I find it very hard to credit. I've enjoyed my share of listening to recorded classes, and it's a useful experience (kind of a step down from actually auditing a class) but I don't think that one could get a very complete education that way.

Of course, arguably some people who go to college now don't get a very good education anyway. But my tendency would be to think that those who would actually apply themselves hard enough to get much benefit from an online learning approach would do far better with in person learning. The sort of people who would get little more out of an in person class than they would out of an online one get little real benefit out of either and mostly wouldn't actually finish online courses and retain anything anyway. I think they'll always be a source for casual continuing education and for junk certifications (which, admittedly, are highly rewarded in some fields), but won't replace actually going to college.

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