Education has the power to change everything: Poverty, disease, crime. Many people in the world, mostly in developing countries, can’t afford higher education. 100 million according to UNESCO. We can’t easily change poverty, disease or crime in the world. But we *can* revolutionize education. Here is a proposed strategy for a self- sustaining educational entity which would offer free higher education to everyone.
MIT OpenCourseWare: Since 2002, has all of the educational materials from its undergraduate and graduate-level courses online, partly free. 2080 courses available as of November 2011.
Open Educational Resources (OER): Term adopted at a UNESCO forum in 2002. Is also the name of a foundation that promotes OER. WikiEducator: Since 2006, collaborative development of learning materials, which educators are free to reuse, adapt and share without restriction. Massive Open Online Courses – MOOC: Term coined in 2006. First adopted and applied in a Connectivism course by George Siemens.
Coursera: “committed to making the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it.” As of March 2012 offers 15 online free courses. Udacity: Private institution of higher education founded by Sebastian Thrun and David Evans with the goal of free, online classes available to everyone. First course began February 20th, 2012. MITx: Will offer a portfolio of MIT courses for free to a virtual community of learners around the world. Planned for Fall 2012.
Consider Stanford’s experience: Last fall, 160,000 students in 190 countries enrolled in an Artificial Intelligence course taught by Mr. Thrun and Peter Norvig, … Mr. Thrun was enraptured by the scale of the course, … and an army of volunteer translators who made it available in 44 languages. “Having done this, I can’t teach at Stanford again,” he said at a digital conference in Germany in January. “I feel like there’s a red pill and a blue pill, and you can take the blue pill and go back to your classroom and lecture your 20 students. But I’ve taken the red pill, and I’ve seen Wonderland.”
Requires involvement of accredited institutions. Students expected to pay a cost-recovery fee to be assessed for credit. Plans a limit to very few OER courses to not threaten mainstream business model. Expects increased brand awareness of institutions, therefore increased enrollments. Expects revenue from recruiters for providing qualified students information.
OER community members are employees in current education industry. Those people won’t try to affect the fundamentally flawed system that employs them. They don’t seem to realize the huge power that they have. They don’t seem to identify the huge importance that assessment services will have. They don’t seem to have a good idea of a business model for an OERU. They only mention things like selling information to recruiters and cost recovery for assessment.
This idea is not really a creative or sophisticated one. We just identified several perspectives, realities and trends, which we call principles, and we believe them to be solid truths. This whole project is just a logic and natural conclusion based on those principles.
Society should not charge its youth to educate them. As a society, we wish that most or all of our youth get higher education. An educated citizen contributes way much more to society than a non-educated one. However, as a society, we stop that from happening by trying to make a small profit from the few ones who can pay for their education, missing the tremendous profits we could get as a whole if we just educated all of our youth.
ICT’s give us the power to educate everyone we want. Most educational communities discuss about the use of ICTs’ to improve their current teaching. Most of them not realize that with current ICT’s, in the same way they are already using them, we are now able to change and revolutionize the world through education.
Charging money for courses which content is freely available on the Internet must stop. Most private universities charge very high amounts of money for teaching course materials that in their most part are already freely available on the Internet. Most university professors in developing countries are not particularly good or proficient at the courses they teach. They add very little or no value compared to self- learning on the Internet.
Teachers who have no particular achievements on their fields should not be the ones educating our youth. On the contrary: our best minds, our best researchers and business people should be the ones educating our youth. Many of those bright minds feel a natural desire to share their knowledge. Our concept will facilitate it in a way much better than the current education system. Our system would discourage the existence of full- time professors and instead attract successful people from many fields to teach hourly.
In developing countries there is no real incentive for a professor to do any research. We must provide incentive and means for research. The vast majority of university professors in developing countries don’t do any valuable research. Our online course auction system will allow us to collect higher payments for courses in which the professor has higher achievements or prestige, and the professor would receive a percentage of that. Therefore, professors will have the incentive of being paid proportionally to their achievements.
Value self-learning capacity in addition to “scholastic aptitude”. Most universities use numeric and verbal aptitude testing to choose their students. Our model will attract self-learners, and we believe that in the 21st century, with human knowledge growing exponentially, a professional who is good at self-learning would have more chance of becoming and remaining successful compared to a person with higher aptitude but with less self-learning motivation.
We must teach kids science and technology as soon as they are ready. Many universities teach basic concepts like Ohm’s Law or programming languages in the first or second year of studies. But some of those students were capable of learning those concepts probably 10 years earlier. We won’t wait for students to finish high school to allow them into our courses. We would welcome anyone who can handle the course material. Although we probably must wait until students finish high school to issue a formal college degree.
Affluent families will always be willing to pay for education. Affluent families are more likely to know how good investment education is. We will provide the opportunity for them to pay for higher quality version of our courses. Professors would range from local professionals to world-class experts, businessmen, politicians, etc. Additional course value could be in form of laboratory use, guided tours, etc.
High paying students expect to socialize with other high paying ones. Our online course auction system would allow affluent students to group among themselves around the best classes and teachers. It is a fact that social structure is a very strong foundation for professional and business success. Social networks formed among high-paying students could be alike ones at current Ivy League schools.
Fixed percentage scholarships are a thing of the past. Scholarships have always been a strong motivator among top students, but we believe we can provide more levels than just the fixed 100%, 50% and 25%. Our system would handle performance-based continuous scholarship levels from 0% to100%. Most students would get some level of aid, thus we would motivate much more students than the current criteria. The very top students would be able to get into the highest-paying classes for free.
We must facilitate PLAR - Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition. There are many people who acquired knowledge similar or superior to college degrees through work experience or independent study. It is in the interest of society to identify and recognize the skills and capabilities of individuals. Our program would enable those individuals to obtain formal degrees in a very short time and at no cost.
Our entity, code-named Mega-University, would offer full higher education degrees, in most areas of human knowledge, for free, based on distance education through ICT’s. Payment would be optional for each course and handled with an auction system. Many of the courses would use material openly available on the Internet. Some courses may not include any teaching at all, would just require self-learning. Assessment will be automated.
This is all what we need: One accredited and preferably important university that wants to become the Mega-University. Some legal consulting so our distance-learning courses comply with legal requirement for credit. Some marketing budget to publicize the program. To pick one of the existing quiz/testing online services for assessment. Design and develop the proposed online course auction online application.
Is a key element of this concept that handles the following: ◦ Class enrollment ◦ Multi-level auction functionality for variable class cost allocation ◦ Continuous performance-based partial scholarship functionality This concept is proprietary to NOVAPRO. We have not found anything close to this anywhere.
Each course would have one or more teachers, and one or more levels of additional value added (like lab use, physical materials or supplies, field trips, etc.). Each combination would have a specific student capacity. All this information would be public days in advance of enrollment phase, including bio and achievements of each teacher. Students would enter the “auction” by indicating their preferred class groups and an amount of money they are willing to pay for it. The system would update in real time statistics that tell students the likelihood of getting into the course with the amount they offer.
After the enrollment period, the system choose for each class its selection of students based on a combination of higher monetary “bid” with the calculated scholarship level of each student. For each class the final official price is estimated as the lowest offer among the selected group, and all the group pay that same minimum amount, less their specific scholarship percentage.
There would be prior agreement with professors on a percentage of course revenue going to be paid to them. Those percentages can be significant, i.e. 30%, 50%. Currently, professors get paid small portions like 5% or 10% of course revenue in private universities. Professors that don’t attract a minimum revenue will be paid a standard rate. This model should be an incentive to professors for achievement and research.
Courses can have other courses as pre- requisites. For each pre-requisite, a minimum grade will be specified. For example, for Math2 the requirement could be 80% in Math1, but for Chemistry the requirement could be 60% in Math1. Specific professors or class groups could require higher grades.
Professors would be encouraged to select study materials already openly available on the Internet. Many courses won’t have proprietary course content. Some professors could create and provide additional material if they wish to.
Most courses must have a totally-free option. In those cases, all study materials would be in electronic form. Additional value for courses could be in the form of providing physical books or materials. However physical books in general would be discouraged.
No. Additional value for courses can include in-person sessions at a local university or auditorium, right to use study rooms for student groups, field trips, etc.
The easiness for graduated professionals to take courses or get recognition for any additional topics required by their employers would make curriculums less critical. A basic curriculum guideline would be defined when each major or program is announced. Students would be free to earn credit for courses they freely choose in other fields. What needs to be carefully determined is the number of credits to award for each course.
Most courses would have a test-only version, in which the student goes directly to the assessment of their knowledge. Depending on the course, some of those courses may not offer a 100% grade option, for example if the course required team work, or lab or field sessions, etc. which can’t be assessed by online testing.
Some students would be tempted to “cheat” and get help during online testing. We don’t see much need to validate identity in basic courses. More advanced courses, which have those basic ones as pre-requisites would assess that basic knowledge anyway. Each major or program should define a set of courses in which identity will be recorded in testing. For example, in 20% of courses. A final small set of final courses must be taken in person, specially those that would lead to awarding a formal degree.
We won’t have resources to validate identity on the many students we expect to have. However, if unethical behavior is confirmed, the penalties would be severe, for example taking away credit for one or many courses. Professors could suggest investigation of specific students performing too below average. Recruiters could suggest investigation if they find the graduate is not really qualified. We could take away degrees if necessary.
The country or community that first sponsor this initiative would have the benefit of giving priority to their people to get the college degrees in very few years. This country or community will be in the position of exporting professional services and skyrocketing their entrepreneurial ventures. Biggest countries and corporations in the world could be interested in contracting this newly available workforce.
“The future belongs to those who seepossibilities before they become obvious.”John Sculley, former PepsiCo President and Apple CEO.
This initiative could strongly benefit if specific law is approved to support it. In many countries academic credits and degrees are tied to a number of hours of class attendance. That must change. Law must evolve so credits reflect actual knowledge, either obtained through class attendance or not. Government must support PLAR - Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition.
Private universities business model would be severely affected in less than a decade. Some would be able to adapt, some would downsize, and a few would need to close doors. The big “college prep” industry would shrink and end up serving only the less skilled and less motivated students, those who don’t succeed at self-learning.
Netflix: Revolutionized video rental industry. 2011 revenue: US $ 3.2 billion. iTunes: Changed record industry business model. 2010 sales US $ 4.1 billion. Southwest Airlines: With creative business model became one of world’s most profitable airlines. 2011 revenue US $ 15.7 billion. iPhone: Changed physical appearance and user interface in cellphone industry. Estimated 2011 sales US $ 40 billion. Walmart: Absorbed big portion of retail industry. 2011 revenue US $ 420 billion.
The US colleges and universities industry includes about 4,400 degree-granting institutions with combined annual revenue of about $360 billion. (We don’t have worldwide information at hand.)
If our initiative can grab an equivalent of 1% of the US colleges and universities industry in 5 years, and we end up charging an average of 10% for those services, that would make our annual revenue of 360 million dollars. That would mean equivalent savings for students’ families in the range of billions of dollars per year. Assuming a net profit of 10% and discount rate of 10%, market value of our entity would be around 360 million dollars.
Form a small and talented team to write a solid project and business proposal. Get legal help about degree and accreditation requirements. Identify a established university who wants to become the Mega-University, draft a contract with them. Define specs for the auction system and estimate development costs. Choose an online testing service.
To re-write this same proposal in a more formal manner: 3-person team for three months: US $ 30,000. For an initial 5-person team, plus administrative support, legal advice, public presentations, etc. for six months: US $ 200,000. Initial estimates are that initial working capital should be around US $ 1 million, which could be recovered with operating profits after 3 years of operation.
Assuming we offer 5 majors with 200 courses in total, and operating profit of US $ 10 per course-student. Assuming 12 courses taken per year per student, yearly operating profit per student would be US $ 120. Assuming we serve 200 students per course on average, we would have 40,000 students enrolled at any given time. Thus, operating profits per year would be around US $ 5 million.