Monday, September 14, 2009

A Virtual Revolution Is Brewing for Colleges

According to this WaPo article, colleges may be about to follow in the path of print media - a slow decline that steepens as the traditional business model becomes gradually non-sustainable.
Students starting school this year may be part of the last generation for which "going to college" means packing up, getting a dorm room and listening to tenured professors. Undergraduate education is on the verge of a radical reordering. Colleges, like newspapers, will be torn apart by new ways of sharing information enabled by the Internet. The business model that sustained private U.S. colleges cannot survive.
Both newspapers and universities have traditionally relied on selling hard-to-come-by information. Newspapers touted advertising space next to breaking news, but now that advertisers find their customers on Craigslist and, the main source of reporters' pay is vanishing. Colleges also sell information, with a slightly different promise -- a degree, a better job and access to brilliant minds. As with newspapers, some of these features are now available elsewhere. A student can already access videotaped lectures, full courses and openly available syllabuses online. And in five or 10 years, the curious 18- (or 54-) year-old will be able to find dozens of quality online classes, complete with take-it-yourself tests, a bulletin board populated by other "students," and links to free academic literature.
This is a good article and worth the time investment to read it. As a former student of The University of Phoenix (MBA 2007) I can attest to increased availability of information online. Although I attended a "brick & mortar" classroom, all our books, reference articles, and syllabus documents were available on the UoP site, and I still have access to all the material in the virtual library.

Maybe the idea of an "Internet Alpha Chapter" is not so far fetched after all. Some of us who are thinking 20 years down the road would do well to consider what such a group would look like and how best to communicate the ideals and concepts across a virtual chapter. You can bet someone will; it may as well be SigEp.

A Virtual Revolution Is Brewing for Colleges -