25 Questions Covid-19 Makes Us Ask About Our Education System?
I won’t start with a diatribe about how education systems are broken or woefully inadequate or even with “necessity is the mother of …”. Perhaps it is appropriate that it takes a pandemic to get us to rethink entrenched nonsense in the education system. I am just glad that most schools have quickly manifested online programs. I hope it also prevents us from merely returning to antiquated methods and mores when there comes a vaccine. Here are questions this Covid-19 virus is definitely making us ask:
- Can everyone afford college if it goes online?
- Can everyone get a degree from the best school or college?
- Can everyone learn the things that are most likely to land them a job rather than a hodgepodge of desultory esoterica?
- Can everyone learn what they want, when they want, how they want and from wherever they want?
- Will there be jocks and nerds or just nerds … or maybe just Jords or Nercks?
Cost of Education: As so many contemplate a gap year in lieu of paying full fees for a mostly online education, we ask
6. Why is the cost of education as high as it is? Ivy league schools have bank breaking costs for students who do not have scholarships. While the facilities and reputation might be better, there is no reason for such fantastically large fees or huge range of differences across different schools.
7. Will overall education costs be able to be cut down to a fraction because online might mean no dorm, board, buildings, etc?
8. Will tuition for online be way smaller? Can it potentially be free?
9. Why should so many teachers teach the same thing? Why not just a few really good teachers for each subject … across the world?
10. What if we captured the best lessons on video … with optional on demand learning interactions with an instructor … with per session fees for dedicated instructors?
School Capacity: Any school only takes so many students per year. A physical school might have capacity limits but there is no such limit for online which is built for scale.
11. Why can’t everyone go to MIT … or Harvard … or whatever best school?
12. Will the notion of class times or semesters and summer vacations fall by the wayside if students can set their own pace online?
Quality & Reputation: Tuition fees and jobs are heavily centered on the street cred of the school a student goes to. There is fierce competition to get into the best school. If everything is online … and curricula is shared …
13. Why can’t everyone get any courses they want from any school they like?
14. Why should curricula for the same subjects be taught differently at different colleges?
15. What will happen to the world of work and salaries if everyone has a degree from MIT? Will wasted energy fueling school based egos, discrimination and competition find better application?
Assessment & Accreditation: The single factor that has caused online education to be stymied is accreditation. Getting an online degree simply does not compare to a degree from a major school.
16. If all schools are online … and they share curricula, shouldn’t getting a degree from any school cost the same and be worth the same?
17. What if there were no instructors and only those students that could find their own way through contained lessons were given a degree?
18. Would that make every student an entrepreneur?
19. Can we automate online assessments and remove the costs to both institutions and students? Would that be much more fair?
Physical & Geographical: If students can do most of the education curriculum remotely and they can complete it from any school in any city or country:
20. What do we do about practicum and labs and … parties?
21. Will schools need buildings and grounds and facilities? What will happen to those?
22. Will weekday rush hour traffic in school cities be enormously better?
The online education movement has progressed much since the advent of EdX and Udacity from a decade ago. Rest assured they asked most or many of these questions. They have had to form a parallel universe and it is only SNHU that seems to be a hybrid and heading for Billions! Isn’t it time for some creative destruction? As it happens, the pandemic will cause many smaller schools to not reopen.
23. Is it just profit and ego that will prevent an MIT merger with a vocational school in India or China?
24. What would happen if a large corporate like Google or Facebook bought all of the material and IP from failing schools and made them available online … for FREE … with a job guarantee at the end for successful completion? Some if this is already happening.
25. Thank you Covid19 for forcing us to think this through and do something better? Has this pandemic helped us uncover some real possibilities and nudged us to lose inertia or are we just going heave a sigh of relief when the vaccines come and go back to the same old nonsense?