“In the Future, the Cost of Education Will Be Zero”*

* Plus or minus a bunch of money for various fees and such….

Via Twitter, I stumbled upon this video from back in February about the University of the People, which is an open source university that is free– except for the fee to register and the fee to take classes.  Oh, and there are (apparently) no professors, unless you want to call them up and ask them for advice.  And just now, I stumbled across this article on Mashup, “In the Future, the Cost of Education will be Zero.” It’s a really interesting collection of resources, and I’ll probably be sharing it very soon with my Technology for Teaching and Learning class in Traverse City.  It could easily be useful for 516.

I have to say I’m a little skeptical.  Perhaps I am having the same reaction to this stuff that Metallica has to music piracy, that this “free” university stuff is going to come back to bite people like me, who do not do this teaching stuff for just the love of learning.  But the thing is there is a big difference between “information” being free and even course materials being free and an “education” being free.  Not to mention a “degree” from an accredited university.  Sure, you could study and learn at MIT’s Opencourseware site, but try to apply for an engineering job or something and tell your future employer that you don’t have a degree from MIT, just their web site.

So no, zero is perhaps a little misleading and unrealistic.  I do think though that these projects have a lot to teach universities and college in the US.  It seems to me that some of these open content and open courseware tools could be applied to lots of programs at EMU to reduce institutional overhead and cost to students.  I don’t think that means that a degree from a “real” university is ever going to be free in this country, but it could get a lot cheaper.

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