Hire edx

Bummed by the high cost of education?

Perhaps the answer is a college education, that doesn’t require you to go through nonsense of being “accepted” by a higher institution.

Harvard and MIT have announced “edX,” an online platform for college education that is being billed as the biggest thing in education since the printing press. Hyperbole? Maybe. But, still…

“It will move beyond the standard model of online education that relies on watching video content and will offer an interactive experience for students,” MIT says in an online FAQ. “And the technology will be open-source; other universities will be able to leverage the innovative technology to create their own online offerings.”

Is there a downside here? Would high school seniors, knowing that can get a college education without first having to try to impress the college they want to “get into,” treat their final years differently?

Here’s today’s news conference…

Video streaming by Ustream

MIT, for its part, is already providing some courses for free online, which makes it possible for some of us to admit out loud “we don’t get it,” without the embarrassment.

Still, the possibilities are endless here. What would the student loan crisis be if we didn’t have to actually go away to college? And when does the debate begin over whether the kids that do are subsidizing the ones who don’t?

  • Tim

    My question about this is, will employers/grad schools/etc view this sort of program as equivalent to a traditional college degree for credentialing purposes? I read that an option to get formal credentials will be available, and I believe that the quality of education will be there, but unfortunately a lot of the value in getting a degree comes from the perception or signaling aspect of it.

  • davidz

    There is a world of difference between getting an education and getting a degree. Most colleges would have you believe that they’re in the category of the former, but the real world more or less demands the latter, and that’s where the college administrations sit.

    These sorts of online classes are great for people who are self-motivated to get an education. Until and unless someone figures out a legitimate way to offer a degree based on these classes, they’re not going to be very helpful in cutting the cost (monetary or time spent) of an education.

    Employers today screen for the presence of a degree, and use that as a marker for “is educated”. We all know that this isn’t necessarily the case. I’ve had a 20+ year career that only occasionally touched on my formal education, but used a lot of my skills in the school of hard knocks.

    If degrees might mean “the student has formally passed a rigorous set of examinations”, and these courses could be used to prepare for those exams, it might help. In the meantime, schools like Stanford, MIT and Harvard are giving away their education as a teaser for their degrees. It’s very clear that the actual educational components (classes, assignments, lectures, etc.) are not the primary commodity.

    Instead, it’s classroom presence, interaction outside of class (professors, peers, other faculty, etc) and the value of a name on a piece of sheepskin (or whatever those diplomas are printed on these days). That’s the real value of a big name university.

  • Bob Collins

    Doesn’t the I.T. world think differently? Isn’t that an endeavor where skill and knowledge is more important than the brand of an educational institution?

    Maybe that’s the kind of change of thinking that will accompany the change of providing an education.

    I’m not sure it would be suitable for, say, lawyers or doctors. But I know a fair number of poor journalists who got hired based on their big j-school degree.

    Maybe we’re due to get smarter on both ends of this.

  • davidz

    I am in the I.T. world, and skills and knowledge gained in practice are far more valuable and important than those from formal education. But in this day and age, being able to show that your skills are useful is a hard thing to do before you get in to an interview, and that’s what the value of the degree is: to get you in the door.

    Personally, I’d rather hire a self-educated jack of all trades because I expect that any job is going to change over time, and the self educated person will continue to learn over time. Those that think “I’m done with school, I don’t need to learn anything new” are not the sort that can actually manage a career in I.T. (and I doubt much else).

    Law is an interesting case where I think this sort of education (online non-traditional) could be really valuable. Anyone wanting to practice law must pass the bar exam. If they can do so without having taken classes at a law school, isn’t that an indication that they’ve managed to self-educate to the required standards?

    We need to once again re-align the purpose of going to school. It is to get an education. That should be the end goal, not merely a stop along the way. I think that an education has been the real purpose for school in the past, and can be again someday.

    But we have to get past the notion that someone must have a degree to be educated, and than a degree implies proper and suitable education. Neither case is true, and I believe that in most cases, neither case is necessary to people trying to work in today’s world.

    I ended up going back to school a couple of years ago, because the lack of a degree was costing me some opportunities to advance. It wasn’t the knowledge that I needed, just the piece of paper to provide to H.R. that I was indeed worthy of consideration. I would have loved for some of these new kinds of online classes to be meaningful towards that degree (given the need for the degree in the first place, which I question).

    Some of my co-workers have been taking these online classes from Stanford in the last year or so. Purely out of a desire for self-education, because I don’t believe they’re getting any “credit” for it at all, either within any formal degree program or even within our internal procedures. More power to them.

  • Tim

    Yeah, it should always be about the skills and knowledge, rather than the piece of paper. And especially so in something like I.T. But it’s the hiring mangers, HR staff, and so on that want to see those degrees. Like davidz wrote, you need to get in the door.

  • jtberken

    I think it is unfortunate that people are pooh-poohing the idea. I had told my director at a small electric utility that is an electrical engineering in training, and the first thing he brought up is that it is a ploy to get knowledge through the crowd-sourcing to further the institutions research. Maybe…but really. We are now entering a world where we have to get on the crowd-sourcing bandwagon. It is a global market. Yes, maybe these institutions will get some trinkets of research information, but society as we know it is changing to bouncing ideas off of ideas to figure out a very complex problem that one person (group) will need outside perspective to figure out.

    Society in our business and political circles are talking about the small business and producing jobs. This is another median to help us gain knowledge and think outside the box. Yes, the resume gets you in the door, but it is the knowledge and interaction with others that gets that job and keeps your job.

    This is a very exciting time only if people can start getting past their skepticism and into the world of knowledge sharing.