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At Mind Matters News: Is online learning poised to replace universities?

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Perhaps sooner than we think, if present trends continue. This seems relevant to the rampages of Cancel Culture: A degree may confer only social status — which depends on others’ acceptance:

Billions of dollars in endowments, generous government funding, and enormous social cachet all combine to make universities very powerful. But are they indispensable?

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who will be speaking at COSM 2021 on November 10, doesn’t seem to think so…

There is a lot to mull here but, essentially, [Allen] Farrington argues, riffing Thiel, that the current purpose of the university is to provide, at huge cost, a piece of paper that supposedly gains the graduate admission to the upper crust of society: “Higher education has become a transfer of wealth from the future earnings of the aspirational lower and middle classes to a metastasising administrative parasite, which funds the permanence of the cultural elite by wielding its leverage over anybody foolish enough to dissent.” He thinks the disease is “terminal.”

But what to do? Here Farrington turns to Peter Thiel again…

Farrington offers two additional ideas: He encourages businesses to fund more research directly (“It is not a mystery that some of the greatest scientific work of the twentieth century was funded by AT&T at Bell Labs, and Xerox at Xerox PARC. There were no administrators forcing them to write twenty-page reports explaining why Unix would advance social justice.”)

Second, he suggests, businesses could quit rewarding expensive pieces of paper…

News, “Is online learning poised to replace universities?” at Mind Matters News (October 29, 2021)

Businesses are already less inclined to reward expensive pieces of paper than in the recent past.

Would the decline of U’s in favor of online learning be better or worse for ID?

Takehome: Venture capitalist Peter Thiel doubts that a degree is a good investment today — he has called college administrators subprime mortgage brokers. Learn why.

A relevant film:

You may also wish to read: At The Times of London: “Charles Darwin will be next if his great defender is toppled”
Huh? What? If Huxley (or Darwin) is cancelled, “the practice of science itself no longer matters.” Well, that’s true but for Cancel Culture, that’s a feature, not a bug. It shows their immense power, generally in the robes of victimhood. Has none of these people been paying attention to the war on math and the war on science?


My experience in learning using MOOC technology is largely positive. For example, MOOCs bring some of the highest-level educational opportunities to those who could never afford going to top-tier universities: https://openlearning.mit.edu/ On the negative/challenging side, MOOCs have a much higher dropout rate due to less-than-optimal motivation and commitment. In other words, many people sign up for a MOOC simply for curiosity, to get an idea of the course content or presenter, or they don't have a lot of money at stake to complete a course. In Asia (specifically South Korea), MOOCs are more popular, and I believe more successful, because there are many teaching assistants available to engage with the class participants. MOOCs generally focus on lectures, but the mass-production mentality that came with the industrial revolution is not ideal for humans. Humans don't enjoy being educationally manufactured. Thus, the better MOOCs put much more effort into individualization, group interaction, and learning by doing! Unfortunately, management in industry (with a few notable exceptions) are largely clueless about effective learning technology, nor are they interested in effective education for their employees. Despite protests to the contrary, they're focused instead on symbolic education and training. They don't measure outcomes, nor do they modify their curricula as a result. I do think there are huge opportunities for MOOC technology, but MOOCs need far better design to be effective. Based on my experiences, I can also recommend https://www.thegreatcourses.com/ although the lectures are not enough by themselves as I pointed out. But the lecturers are vetted and only the best ones are used. -Q Querius
KRock That's a great accomplishment. I was a small business owner for over 30 yrs. and we hired a lot of folks with online degrees and certifications later in my career. One of the reasons is they tended to be older, more mature and motivated. Also finishing a degree on line shows you are a self-starter, which has become a harder and harder attribute to find. Good luck to you.... chuckdarwin
I just finished my undergrad studies via online/distance learning. Although it's certainly not for everyone, I actually really enjoyed it. Plus, online/distance learning was best suited to the many other personal commitments I had going on in my life at the time, particularly that of work. I'm now moving on to postgrad studies, and will continue to do so through online/distance learning. KRock
Of course Thiel went to Stanford undergrad and law school and came from a upper middle class background (his father was a chemical engineer). No GED, trade school or community college for Peter...... This is one of those areas where you have to laugh at the paternalistic hypocrisy these clowns advocate. Every ten years or so, some entitled Ivy League grad thinks they've hit on a new and unique idea about how screwed up American colleges are and that high school kids need to look at non-college options. But, of course, their kids go only to the most elite K through 12 schools and then on to Yale. You even see this credential one-upsmanship in the apologetics and ID worlds, where everybody has "a doctorate'" and wears it like a cheap suit, even if its from some matchbook cover bible college in central Texas. Thiel says "second, he suggests, businesses could quit rewarding expensive pieces of paper" And monkeys are going to fly..... chuckdarwin
People are not going to universities for an education. That hasn’t been the norm for 40 years and maybe never. Exceptions are engineers and some sciences. They are going for a life experience (football/basketball games, clubs, parties, meeting people and other social and living experiences) and a certificate. If they don’t get the former, all opportunities are lost for life. The certificate available elsewhere is second class to them. There are some exceptions to this but for most it is not an acceptable option. Given that, there are still some educational experiences I would have loved to have gone through if I had the knowledge and opportunity when I went to college. And had understood what a good education really was when I was young. But I would have probably rejected it then. jerry
I've been wrestling with this question for 20 years. The real distinction has nothing to do with cancel crap, which is always present in academia. If universities were actually training people for life and jobs, using an apprenticeship approach, online would have no value at all. Most college courses are lectures and memorization. Courseware CAN be better than lectures. There's a secondary and less obvious problem on the online side. In my first courseware in 2002, I tried hard to provide a variety of simulated experiments with constant interactivity. Over the years, the publishers disliked the interactive parts and wanted me to just copy the textbook into the computer screen. So the value was gradually lost. When courseware switched from free-standing EXE form to online HTML form, even more interactivity was lost. The ever-changing tangle of HTML and SVG and JS forces ever-narrower ranges of functionality. http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-api-doesnt-hold.html http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2020/08/useful-info-from-satan.html polistra

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