Monday, September 14, 2009

Freedom To Learn

The following is the most recent posting from Sternberg's Mind Matters

M.I.T. has put its curriculum online. This means that anyone can access all manner of lectures and academic content. Although they can’t get a degree by doing this, for the person interested in self-enrichment or prepping for possible coursework, the opportunity is tremendous.This idea, the spreading of opencourseware, some claim is the future trend of education. Right now numerous universities and high schools have their material online and the cry is for more material to be made available for all. How very egalitarian. Students from districts outside the United States, or adult learners, suddenly have at their fingertips a wealth of information. This is a globalists' dream. Somewhere, Thomas L. Friedman is celebrating.

However, one wonders about the the possible consequences or complications of this trend. Not that I am against the idea, but I suppose there will be a point where the "free" work starts competing or butting heads with public and private universities. Especially if an organization such as P2PU, a peer to peer university were to receive some form of accreditation. While there would always be those wishing the prestige of graduating from an actual university with a physical campus, there are those who would shrug their shoulders and say, "A degree is a degree."
Consider Phoenix University, one of the first distance learnign programs in the U.S.. Initially, those graduating with a Phoenix degree were met with skepticism. At the beginning distance learning was a queer creature and few took it seriously. Now a degree from Phoenix University is met with little if any resistance.

So why not P2PU? Surely there are enough students for all, and one can't imagine that students availing themselves of programs such as P2PU would deprive places like Harvard, Florida State, or the UCLA of a paying student base. And yet, there are always consequences for each social trend or technological development. In the coming years I suspect we'll see court challenges regarding copyright infringement from one side and from the other side, challenges to be eligible for monies that would usually be reserved for phyical institutions and not necessarily those existing in a cyberworld.

I'm not passing judgement. I'm just thinking out loud.

2 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I like the fact that information is available widely, but universities should do more than just posess and pass information. It's as much about "how" to learn and how to think critically as it is about facts.

Rick said...

I like the idea that p2pu is a movement toward pulling down the barriers to open learning intrinsic in the closed circles of academia.