University education is at the brink of radical transformation. The revolution is already happening and the Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera and the Marginal Revolution University are just the harbingers of a change that will soon sweep over universities throughout the world.
Alex Tabarrok has a must-read piece on the coming revolution in education here. The entire piece is highly recommended, so I am not gonna even try to summarize it here, but this part stands out:
Teaching today is like a stage play. A play can be seen by at most a few hundred people at a single sitting and it takes as much labor to produce the 100th viewing as it does to produce the first. As a result, plays are expensive. Online education makes teaching more like a movie. Movies can be seen by millions and the cost per viewer declines with more viewers. Now consider quality. The average movie actor is a better actor than the average stage actor.
As a result, Tabarrok predicts that the market for teachers will became a winner-take-all market with very big payments at the top: the best teachers would be followed by millions and paid accordingly.
My prediction is that the revolution in education will also lead to greater specialization – maybe you can’t be the best Development Economics teacher, but you can be the best teacher on XIXth Century Agricultural Development in South-East Denmark: economies of scale brought by online education can make such uber-specialization of teaching portfolios profitable (or, indeed necessary).
Surprisingly or not, it is American entrepreneurs and institutions who lead this revolution. In Europe, online education is still relegated to pre-master programs and the like and is too often a thoughtless extrapolation of traditional education practices online. Sooner rather than later, the revolution will be at our doorstep. We better start preparing.
[P.S. the Guardian aslo run a recent piece on the topic as well]