The future of university education

Don’t look for profound stuff here … not yet.  I’ve been tracking a few trends and filling a Google Doc with links and research but haven’t found the one hook that ties it all together.


In the mean time, The Big Hominid comments on a blog post by a Dr Vallicella.  The Doctor’s post is ‘100 reasons not to go to Graduate School.  The Hominid argues that lecturing does not equal teaching and offers substantial commentary on the subject.

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution also discusses whether professors are becoming obsolete.

In 2003, I argued that professors were becoming obsolete, giving a 10 to 20 year time for a big move to online education. Later, I pointed out that the market was moving towards superstar teachers, who teach hundreds at a time or even thousands online.

What caught my attention in particular was news of a course being offered:

Stanford’s ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ course will be offered free to anyone online this fall. The course will be taught by SebastianThrun (Stanford) and PeterNorvig (Google, Director of Research), who expect to deal with the historically large course size using tools like GoogleModerator.

This course sounds interesting.  Here is another: Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. I can’t compare it to Thrun’s class, but I can say the videos for the Egyptian class are dead boring.  Important info is being covered but the narrator might as well be an ‘xtra normal’ computer-generated voice.  The content is interesting but it takes some effort to concentrate on.  Tabarrok mentioned Sandel’s Justice class as another example of superstar prof and online content class: those videos were of a live classroom with interaction between the professor and the students.  In the Egyptian class, the interaction is absent and the voice, though perfect for ESL students, is not captivating.

All three posts-and the courses- are worth a read.


One Response to “The future of university education”

  1. Kevin Kim Says:

    I appreciate the shout-out. One thing I haven’t commented on is that it’s easy for us language teachers to talk about the need to avoid lecturing. Students who sit passively in a language class can’t possibly practice the target language, so in a sense, it’s the nature of the beast that we FL instructors generally avoid lecture. We have to.

    All the same, I still think that lecture-avoidance is a concept that can be expanded beyond the language classroom. Dr. HJ Hodges wrote a post a while back about his own student-centered method, which I applauded. No video can really capture that sort of interactivity, although I suspect that, were the technology to evolve enough, you could easily have online classes spread across several time zones that feature about the same level of interactivity as a “meatspace” classroom does.

    I’ll have to look into Google Moderator. Sounds interesting.

    Thanks again!

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