Post-Campus America

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Megan McArdle contemplates what college might look like if distance learning takes off:

  1. Education will end up being dominated by a few huge incumbents.
  2. Online education will kill the liberal arts degree.
  3. Professors (course developers) will be selected for teaching instead of research brilliance.
  4. 95% of tenure-track professors will lose their jobs.
  5. The corollary of #4 is the end of universities as research centers.
  6. Young job-seekers will need new ways to signal diligence.
  7. The economics of graduate school will change substantially.
  8. Civil society will have to substitute for the intense friend networks that are built at college.
  9. The role of schooling in upward mobility will change.
  10. The young will have a much lower financial burden in their 20s.
  11.  The tutoring industry will boom.
  12. If the credentials become valuable, cheating will be a problem.

I love her explanation of the end of universities as research centers:

As I’ve noted before, tenured academics has worked a great scam. They’ve managed to monetize peoples’ affection for regional football teams, and their desire for a work credential, and then somehow diverted that money into paying academics to work on whatever they want, for the rest of their lives, without any oversight by the football fans or the employers.

Her point about diligence seems misplaced, according to at least one commenter:

It’s a different experience in a lot of ways, but I’ve seen that it magnifies the tendency of screwup students to screw up. My online classes actually have a higher drop rate than my face to face classes.

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