"Imagine a college experience without the brick-and-mortar
college. You hit the snooze button on your alarm a few times in the
morning and finally stagger out of bed, yet instead of racing across the
quad to make it to your lecture on time, you open up your laptop and a
grid of windows showing the alternately groggy or hyped-on-caffeine
faces of your classmates pops up alongside another window presenting
your instructor." according to Forbes.
|Sara da Silva works on two computer screens at once at Mass Bay Community College in a computer science course that is designed in conjunction with online learning from MIT, on March 12, 2013 in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. Students watch video lectures on their own through an edX MOOC, massive open online course, and then attend class at their community college where the professor helps them understand their homework. Online learning is a big trend in education. Da Silva hopes to transfer to UMass after saving money here. Photo: Forbes|
There is no need for paper and pencils, no rearranging of students when group projects are assigned; in fact, there are very few indications of the experience we generally attribute to higher education.
While what’s described above is only one of the most recent ideas in the revitalization of higher education, it is the most promising. In a time when the glossy reputation of the university system in America is tarnished by rapidly rising costs for students, innovators and educators alike are exploring new options to lower costs on the student’s end while still providing a quality education.
The biggest development so far has been massive open online courses , where tens of thousands of people can enroll online for a series that provides lecture videos, assignments, and forums for class discussion. Yet this option has experienced numerous growing pains that include a lack of institutions that offer credit for MOOCs, lecture videos of poor quality, low rates of interaction with the course, and issues with assignment grading, among other things.
While futurists try to work out the kinks, it is still apparent that MOOCs cannot provide the level of education students receive by physically attending a lecture and interacting with their instructor. The class sizes of MOOCs make it nearly impossible for professors to grade assignments and address the queries of their pupils, if the professors are interacting at all and not just putting a signature to an agreement to have videos of their lectures used .
Instead, we must look to another innovator in the field of higher education to get a glimpse of what the future college experience may be. The Minerva Project, while primarily a for-profit institution (which may set educational purists on edge), began in 2010 as an effort to modernize higher education and move it beyond the lectures that have been the standard for the past 500 years, as well as cut down on the cost for students.