Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Support for Online Education for New Careers - and First Careers

The Economist Magazine's front page is devoted to the need for Universities to change due to their high cost, lack of success in some areas, and poor availability for certain students (like older folks studying for a second career). The primary theme is that MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) or online learning are needed to improve the situation.  The articles on this subject are well written and I agree with almost all of their ideas, such as:

  • MOOCs are a great way to offer education to people who are too poor or are located in remote areas.  It can also identify those students who are exceptional and need financial support to complete University degrees.
  • The combination of MOOCs and Universities for young students solves a lot of problems, such as cost, flexibility, and quality A University degree might be 
    • One year of online learning where you identify your interests and capabilities at low cost.  You could learn from some of the most interesting and best professors in the world, rather than being saddled with the dregs that usually teach first year courses at many Universities.  My EdX "Introduction to Computers" professor is brilliant, way way better than the professor who taught the same subject to me at McGill.
    • Two years of studying at a physical University where you get all the social interaction, lab time, academic interaction, and deep immersion in your subject.
    • One year of MOOCs while you work as a co-op or intern in your desired field, followed by a short stint at the University to do final exams, present papers, etc.
    • The textbooks, which are often a ripoff, can be put online and rented as needed by students, rather than bought at ridiculous prices and then re-sold.
  • MOOCs are a great way to train older workers in new areas for new careers.  These folks, like myself, have already experienced the social side of University (boat races at the pub), often have jobs and families, but do need a quality new education to prepare for a new career.
  • Using online education frees up professors at Universities for research and to work with graduate students on groundbreaking subjects, rather than giving the same old lecture in Psychology 101.
  • Standardized MOOC courses with proper tests to pass them are a better yardstick to judge a potential worker than looking at transcripts from a University with all the variations in teaching, grading, etc.
My CFP course is a great example of a way to re-train older workers at low cost.  The course is challenging, I am learning a lot, I can be flexible about when and where to learn, and the final proctored exam provides reasonable assurance that I really did learn what was required.

My EdX "Introduction to Computers" course is also exemplary.  The professor giving the video lectures is brilliant, the online setup is sophisticated and interesting, and it is accessible to anyone in the world who understands English and has Internet access.

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