Who’s afraid of a MOOC?: on being education-y and course-ish

Here's a very informative post by Greg Downey @GregDowney1 on the Neuroanthropology PLOS Blog. Did you know about all the MOOC developments in Australia? Such as the Open Universities Australia? Well I didn't, but am going to follow their work closely. Greg is one of the prime movers. A sample:

(…) My project was chosen to be the first cab off the rank at Macquarie after I pointed out at a panel discussion last semester during ‘Learning and Teaching Week’ that the technology made opening classrooms electronically inevitable. At the time, I argued that if the University didn’t promote open classroom efforts, the academic staff were going to start opening up our classrooms on our own. Either do it with us, or stand by as it happens without you. Anthropology (as well as a lot of other disciplines) wants to be free, or at the very least we are inexorably leaking onto the internet.

The leaking lecture hall

Web 2.0 opportunities are simply making it too easy and cheap to put teaching materials online. Our universities are often forcing us to tape lectures, generate electronic syllabi and provide access to our students already, so many of us are asking ourselves, why, after we put so much energy into lectures, slides, student readings, and the like for our classes, should we not share these much more widely. We have watched as lecture-like presentations – most notably, TED conference videos, but also iTunes U, Slideshare, and the like – have grown as a genre through podcasting and other avenues. There are copyright issues, and many of us are nervous about what will happen when as these materials become public, but enough of us are ready to dive into the deep end that the process is only likely to accelerate.

More…

 

Overcoming the legacy of prior education

Stanford's Keith Devlin is giving his second MOOC. Prof Devlin is a superb source of insights into everything related to the MOOC phenomenon. Here's a fragment from his latest post:

(…) Still, the very wide reach of MOOCs means we are likely to see new kinds of activities emerge, some of them purely commercial. The example I cite above, though right now a very isolated one, may be a sign of big things to come – which is why I mention it. There is, after all, a familiar pattern. The Internet, on which MOOCs live, began as a military and educational network, but now it is a major economic platform. And textbooks grew from being a valuable educational support to the present-day mega-profit industry that has effectively killed US K-12 education.

Talking of which (and this brings me to my main focus in this post), the death – or at least the dearth – of good K-12 mathematics education becomes clear when you look through the forum posts in a MOOC such as mine, which assumes only high school knowledge of mathematics.

Devlin offers important insights into the real world of learning as a process. Another example:

First, many forum posters seem to view education as something done to them, by other people who are in control. This is completely wrong, and is the opposite of what you will find in a good university (and a very small number of excellent K-12 schools). ”To learn” is an active verb. The focus should be creating an environment where the student can learn, wants to learn, and can obtain the support required to do so. There is no other way, and anyone who claims to do anything more than help you to learn is trying to extract money from you.

Second, there is a common view of education as being primarily about getting grades on tests – generally by the most efficient means (which usually means by-passing real learning). In education, tests are metrics to help the student and the instructor gauge progress. That does not prevent tests being used to assess achievement and provide credentials, but that is something you do after an educational experience is completed. Their use within the learning process is different, and everyone involved in education – students, instructors, parents, bureaucrats, and politicians – needs to be aware of the distinction.

Even worse, is the belief that a test grade of less than 90% is an indication of failure, often compounded by the hopeless misconception that activities like mathematics depend mostly on innate talent, rather than the hours of effort that those of us in the business know is the key. (Check out Carol Dweck’s Mindset research or read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. Better still, read both.)

This is compounded by the expectation that a grade of 90% is possible within just a few days of meeting something new. For example, here is one (slightly edited) forum post from a student in my class:

Right now I want to quit this class. I don’t understand ANY of it. Hell I don’t understand anything regarding to math except basic equations and those barely. When asked to give a theorem on why something (let’s say a right angle) is that way my answer always was “it is because it is”). So now I don’t know what to do. I got 14 out of 40 … 14, and the perfectionist in me is saying might as well give up … you gave it a shot … there is no way to catch up now. The person in me who wants to learn is saying to keep trying you never know what will happen. And the pessimist in me says it doesn’t matter – I dumb and will always be dumb and by continuing I am just showing how dumb I am.

In this case, I looked at other posts from this student and as far as I can tell (this is hard when done remotely over the Internet) she is smart and shows every indication she can do fine in mathematics. In which case, I take her comment as an indication of the total, dismal failure of the education system she has hitherto been subjected to. No first-line education system should ever produce a graduate who feels like that.

Certainly, in learning something new and challenging, getting over 30% in the first test, less than a week after meeting it for the first time, is good. In fact, if you are in a course where you get much more than that so quickly, you are clearly in the wrong course – unless you signed up in order to fine-tune something you had already learned. Learning is a long, hard process that involves repeated “failure”. And (to repeat a point I made earlier) anyone who says otherwise is trying to extract money from you.

 

Under the Staircase: Kickstarter project related to Milton Friedman and teaching economics to young kids

 

Zowee Batman, I wish our grand kids had the opportunity to read these books by author I. M. Lerner! We don’t how great they will turn out to be when complete – but the project looks very promising. Ms. Lerner begins her Kickstarter project: 

One sunny September morning, many (many) years ago, I walked cautiously into a classroom and slid into an empty seat. I was a junior in high school and I had just signed up for an Econ 101 class. When I left the classroom that day, I was a completely different person. It took a few more classes for me to realize what had happened. And it was really quite simple. The blindfold had been removed and a whole new world opened up.

Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Thomas Sowell, Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, Walter Williams…I read anything and everything I could get my hands on from these and many other writers. And I found myself questioning, for the first time, what I had been spoon-fed during my years in school. I went back to my economics base often during my college years, as a counterweight to what was being advanced (no longer spoon-fed, now shoveled) within the college environment. It was my bulwark.

I started thinking about “crazy” ideas and values like personal responsibility, free enterprise, self-sufficiency, self-determination, individual rights, entrepreneurship, freedom and liberty…well, you get the idea.

As the mother of two young kids, I originally planned to recommend these (and other) great economists to my kids during their teenage years. And yes, that idea was probably doomed to failure. Not only because most teenage kids pretty much run away from anything parents would recommend. No, the reality is that by playing defense until their teenage years, we’re essentially relinquishing the field. We’re abdicating our responsibility to help shape our kids’ values by always staying two steps behind, as these values (and basic common sense) are drilled out of our kids.

It’s time to stop playing defense.

So where to begin?

A book. And more specifically: a book series. An economic adventure series that fosters the values we care so deeply about. Created specifically for our kids, at an age where they soak up everything around them. Incorporating mystery and adventure to engage our young readers, and using examples from our kids’ day-to-day lives – in school, with friends, and in familiar situations – so that they can be armed with logic and a healthy dose of critical thinking skills.

There will be six books in the initial phase.

  • Under the Staircase: Meeting Milton (Milton Friedman) 
  • Under the Staircase: Hello Hayek! (Friedrich Hayek) 
  • Under the Staircase: Talking to Thomas (Thomas Sowell) 
  • Under the Staircase: Waiting for Walter (Walter Williams) 
  • Under the Staircase: Asking Adam (Adam Smith) 
  • Under the Staircase: Adventures with Ayn (Ayn Rand)

Buy them all!

Online Education and Jazz

There is a lovely essay on Marginal Revolution by Alex Tabarrok, who rebuts Mark Edmundson’s criticism of online education. I’m very confident that time will prove Tabarrok right and Edmundson embarrasingly uninformed.

A common responses to my article, Why Online Education Works, is that there is something special, magical, and ‘almost sacred’ about the live teaching experience. I agree that this is true for teaching at its best but it’s also irrelevant. It’s even more true that there is something special, magical and almost sacred about the live musical experience. The time I saw Otis Clay in a small Toronto bar, my first Springsteen concert, the Teenage Head riot at Ontario Place these are some of my favorite and most memorable cultural experiences and yet by orders of magnitude most of the music that I listen to is recorded music.

In The Trouble With Online Education Mark Edmundson makes the analogy between teaching and music explicit:

Every memorable class is a bit like a jazz composition.

Quite right but every non-memorable class is also a bit like a jazz composition, namely one that was expensive, took an hour to drive to (15 minutes just to find parking) and at the end of the day wasn’t very memorable. The correct conclusion to draw from the analogy between live teaching and live music is that at their best both are great but both are also costly and inefficient ways of delivering most teaching and most musical experiences.

Edmundson also says this about online courses:

You can get knowledge from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning. A real course creates intellectual joy, at least in some. I don’t think an Internet course ever will.

Edmundson reminds me of composer John Philip Sousa who in 1906 wrote The Menace of Mechanical Music, an attack on the phonograph that sounds very similar to the attack on online education today.

It is the living, breathing example alone that is valuable to the student and can set into motion his creative and performing abilities. The ingenuity of a phonograph’s mechanism may incite the inventive genius to its improvement, but I could not imagine that a performance by it would ever inspire embryotic Mendelssohns, Beethovens, Mozarts, and Wagners to the acquirement of technical skill, or to the grasp of human possibilities in the art.

Sousa could not imagine it, but needless to say recorded music has inspired many inventive geniuses. Edmundson’s failure of imagination is even worse than Sousa’s, online courses are already creating intellectual joy (scroll down).

(…) 

Read more.

(Via Marginal Revolution.)

MOOCS: The Coming Wave

Prof. Anthony Finkelstein, proprietor of Prof Serious Engineering posted this commentary 24 Feb. He captured succinctly my intuition about the education-innovation wave. While we cannot predict much of anything about where this is going, nor how fast, I’ll risk speculating that by 2020 the retarded landscapes like the US will look quite different (at least on the coasts). The revolution is likely to start at the tertiary level – simply because it isn’t as institutionally rigid as the state public schools, which are typically under the thumb of the teachers unions. Anthony begins with this:

You might have expected that I would have opined on the e-learning and the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) phenomenon before now. After all, everybody else in Higher Education has. I feared, that I had nothing further to add, and after reading this you may be tempted to agree. The course of the emerging debate suggests to me however, that some perspective is needed and this is what I would like to provide. I will do so now by way of a preliminary excursion.

A few years ago I was undertaking some research on behalf of a large industrial organisation whose primary business was photography. An organisation that was then, and still is, undergoing a significant and painful transformation in the face of a changed technological environment to which they had failed to adapt. A senior researcher, in confessional mood, reflected: “I became aware of the possibility of digital cameras many years before they became a practical reality … and then my mother had one. I just don’t know what happened in the intermediate period.”

This reflection strikes a familiar personal note, for me at least. Technology can, however far sighted you believe yourself to be, catch you unawares. Indeed, in certain cases at least, the greater your foresight the more likely you are to be surprised by the way trends unfold. Let me illustrate this by way of an example. Again some time ago, perhaps twenty years or more, I was attending a public lecture at the then Institution of Electrical Engineers. The speaker opened with a slide image that I had seen many many times before. I remarked on this to a friend sitting next to me, ‘not again’. The image was sufficiently well known that it had a nickname ‘the MIT rings’ (due to Nicolas Negroponte). It illustrated the potential for ‘digital convergence': the coming together of communications, computing and content (seen as including data networks, television, telephone). Already the point being made seemed hackneyed and obvious.

Now wind forwards. Digital convergence has arrived. It is not a technical possibility, it is an everyday fact. My children rarely, if ever, watch television but browse video fragments and streams on the computer, I use Skype video calling, and listen to the radio on my ipad, just ordinary life. Unconverged technologies are dead or dying.

So what was I doing in the intermediate period between accepting the inevitability of digital convergence and living with the reality? Truthfully, I am not sure. Regrettably, not investing in Skype, YouTube and so on. The worrying thing is that, despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen, I discounted the consequences. Perhaps I had not fully absorbed the inevitability of the change, perhaps I attributed too much significance to the minor ebbs and currents in business, to the incidental features, to recognise the slow progress of a technological tidal wave that would sweep all before it. Or, maybe I simply lost focus.

(…)Please continue reading Anothy’s original essay.

Clay Shirky: Can MOOCs save college?

Another terrific essay from Clay on pushback by the academy. Excerpts:

(…) Bustillos’ answers seem to be that in the world of higher education, things are going fine, mostly, and that the parts that aren’t going fine can largely be fixed with tax dollars. (Because if there’s one group you’d pin your hopes for an American renaissance on, it would be state legislators.) I have a different answer: School is broken and everyone knows it.

(…) If you want to know what college is actually like in this country, forget Swarthmore, with 1500 students. Think Houston Community College, with 63,000. Think rolling admissions. Think commuter school. Think older. Think poorer. Think child-rearing, part-time, night class. Think 50% dropout rates. Think two-year degree. (Except don’t call it that, because most graduates take longer than two years to complete it. If they complete it.)

(…) In the academy, we’re fine with anything that lowers the cost of education. We love those kinds of changes. But when someone threatens to lower the price, well, then we start behaving like Teamsters in tweed.

* * *

I’ve been thinking about the effects of the internet for a couple of decades now. I’ve watched industry after industry forced to renegotiate their methods and models, in the face of a medium that allows for perfect copying, global distribution, zero incremental cost, ridiculously easy group-forming: The music business. Newspapers. Travel agents. Publishers. Hotel owners. And while watching, I’ve always wondered what I’d do when my turn came.

And now here it is. And it turns out my job is to tell you not to trust us when we claim that there’s something sacred and irreplaceable about what we academics do. What we do is run institutions whose only rationale—whose only excuse for existing—is to make people smarter.

Sometimes we try to make ourselves smarter. We call that research. Sometimes we try to make our peers smarter. We call that publishing. Sometimes we try to make our students smarter. We call that teaching. And that’s it. That’s all there is. These are important jobs for sure, and they are hard jobs at times, but they’re not magic. And neither are we.

(…) For all our good will, college in the U.S. has gotten worse for nearly everyone who relies on us. For some students—millions of them—the institutions in which they enroll are more reliable producers of debt than education. This has happened on our watch.

The competition from upstart organizations will make things worse for many of us. (I like the experiments we’ve got going at NYU, but I don’t fantasize that we’ll be unscathed.) After two decades of watching, though, I also know that that’s how these changes go. No industry has ever organized an orderly sharing of power with newcomers, no matter how interesting or valuable their ideas are, unless under mortal threat.

Instead, like every threatened profession, I see my peers arguing that we, uniquely, deserve a permanent bulwark against insurgents, that we must be left in charge of our destiny, or society will suffer the consequences. Even the record store clerks tried that argument, back in the day. In the academy, we have a lot of good ideas and a lot of practice at making people smarter, but it’s not obvious that we have the best ideas, and it is obvious that we don’t have all the ideas. For us to behave as if we have—or should have—a monopoly on educating adults is just ridiculous.

 

 

Udacity announces a MOOC Pathway Towards US College Credit

This is exciting – starting with three courses at San Jose State (via Storify). Summary from Udacity Newsletter.

 To start off the New Year right, we just launched a pilot program that makes U.S. college credit possible with some MOOCs. As Sebastian Thrun announced in his blog post: “Udacity is thrilled to announce a partnership with San Jose State University to pilot three courses—Visualizing Intermediate AlgebraCollege Algebra, and Elementary Statistics—available online at an affordable tuition rate and for college credit. To my knowledge, this is the first time a MOOC has been offered for credit and purely online.” To see the play by play, check out our Storify page on this announcement.

 
These credits are accepted in the California State University system, and in the case of Statistics, in the University of California system as well. All three courses launch January 30th for the pilot period and are open for enrollment. Please note, as this is a pilot, in order to receive credit, you will have to enroll via San Jose State University first to be accepted into the pilot classes. Of course you can always take the classes for free (but not for college credit) by enrolling directly on Udacity.

NY Times: The Year of the MOOC

I guess the concept of online learning has arrived – the NY Times has a feature dated Nov 2, 2012. It is a useful survey of the landscape of the MOOC startups. Here’s a fragment on Udacity, job placement: 

(…) Udacity has stuck close to its math and computer science roots and emphasizes applied learning, like “How to Build a Blog” or “Building a Web Browser.” Job placement is part of the Udacity package. “The type of skills taught in computer science, even at elite universities, can be very theoretical,” Dr. Stavens explains.

Udacity courses are designed and produced in-house or with companies like Google and Microsoft. In a poke at its university-based competition, Dr. Stavens says they pick instructors not because of their academic research, as universities do, but because of how they teach. “We reject about 98 percent of faculty who want to teach with us,” he says. “Just because a person is the world’s most famous economist doesn’t mean they are the best person to teach the subject.” Dr. Stavens sees a day when MOOCs will disrupt how faculty are attracted, trained and paid, with the most popular “compensated like a TV actor or a movie actor.” He adds that “students will want to learn from whoever is the best teacher.”

That means you don’t need a Ph.D. While there are traditional academics like David Evans of the University of Virginia, “Landmarks in Physics,” a first-year college-level course, is taught by Andy Brown, a 2009 M.I.T. graduate with a B.S. in physics. “We think the future of education is guys like Andy Brown who produce the most fun,” Dr. Stavens says. Mr. Brown’s course is an indie version of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” — filmed in Italy, the Netherlands and England, with opening credits for “director of photography” and “second camera and editor.”

Whether explaining what the ancients believed about the shape of the earth or, in Dr. Thrun’s statistics course, why you are unpopular, statistically speaking, voice-overs are as nonthreatening as a grade school teacher.

“You feel like you are sitting next to someone and they are tutoring you,” says Jacqueline Spiegel, a mother of three from New Rochelle, N.Y., with a master’s in computer science from Columbia who has enrolled in MOOCs from Udacity and Coursera. While taking “Artificial Intelligence,” she discovered she liked puzzling through assignments in online study groups.

Student feedback through brief, frequent quizzes depends upon an ability to assess the student responses. Correct answers on a math quiz are easier to verify than principals testing in say political economy. This is just one of the many innovation zones:

EdX’s M.I.T. roots show in its staff’s geeky passion for building and testing online tools. They collect your clicks. Feedback from the MOOC taught last spring by Dr. Agarwal (who, students learn, is obsessed with chain saws) revealed that participants would rather watch a hand writing an equation or sentence on paper than stare at the same paper with writing already on it.

The focus is on making education logical. “Someone who is consuming the course should know it is not serendipity that the course is chunked in a certain way, but that there is intentionality to sequencing video,” says Howard A. Lurie, vice president for content development.

With mini-notebook in hand, he has been leading the “daily stand-up” meeting (so called because attendees lean against walls) to keep course development on schedule. After one meeting, Lyla Fischer, a 2011 M.I.T. graduate and edX fellow, sat at her computer, a tag still dangling from the chair, and edited the answers for problem sets in Dr. Agarwal’s course. Last spring, students could download PDFs with brief answers. Now, she says, “there is a full explanation of how to do it, here are the steps,” right on the site.

“We are trying to use the magic of all the tool sets we have,” Mr. Lurie says. Students control how fast they watch lectures. Some like to go at nearly double the speed; others want to slow down and replay. Coming: If you get a wrong answer, the software figures out where you went wrong and offers a correction.

WORKING OUT THE KINKS

Assignments that can’t be scored by an automated grader are pushing MOOC providers to get creative, especially in courses that involve writing and analysis. Coursera uses peer grading: submit an assignment and five people grade it; in turn, you grade five assignments.

Check it out – the price is right! 

MOOCs: monetizing via matching employers and students

This is a possible end-run around the traditional credentialing monopoly. E.g., if Google finds that the student data available through Udacity or Coursera is very predictive of employee performance, then that is the basis for a happy partnership between employer and educator. Udacity in particular is focused upon innovating ways to improve the acquisition of true competence in each subject they offer (not just demonstrating the ability to cram for finals to earn the typical university diploma).

(…) On Tuesday, Coursera, which works with high-profile colleges to provide massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, announced its employee-matching service, called Coursera Career Services. 

(…) Udacity’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, said in an interview that 350 partner companies had signed up for its job program. While Mr. Thrun would not say how much employers pay, he characterized the fee as “significantly less than you’d pay for a headhunter, but significantly more than what you’d pay for access to LinkedIn,” a popular social network for job hunters.

“We’re more like a headhunter,” said Mr. Thrun. “We go through our database and find people that seem to be good matches for the openings from these companies.” Udacity says companies using its job-matching program include Google, Amazon, Facebook, and several tech start-ups.

In the case of one computer-science course offered through Udacity, the online students took the same quizzes and tests as a group of students enrolled at Stanford University at the same time. The top 411 students all came from the thousands of students who took the course online, with the strongest-performing Stanford student ranking 412th in the final standings, said Mr. Thrun. (That Stanford student earned a 98-percent score in the course.)

“There are a huge number of people out there who are extremely skilled but happen not to have the Stanford degree,” said Mr. Thrun.

(…) One Udacity student, Tamir Duberstein, said that company’s job program had helped him land a gig at Square, a trendy company that lets consumers submit credit-card payments using smartphones and tablet computers. He was living in Toronto, working at a job he didn’t enjoy, when he took a series of computer-programming courses from Udacity, spending nearly all of his free time on them. “I got the best possible result in a few of them,” he said.

One day this past summer, Udacity sent him an e-mail asking whether he’d be interested in sending in his résumé as part of its job service. “Once your résumé is received, it will be prescreened and possibly shared with a few selected employers with your permission,” the message said.

He sent his in, but didn’t expect much. “I was like, What the hell, sure, why not?,” he remembers.

A few weeks later, he heard first from one tech company and then from Square.

Mr. Duberstein said that the job-interview process included plenty of technical questions asking him to prove he had the skills that he had learned in the Udacity courses. “The point here is not credentialing,” he said. “They quizzed me. They really were assessing what I know for themselves.”

Both Coursera and Udacity show employers more than just student grades. They also highlight students who frequently help others in discussion forums.

Mr. Thrun, of Udacity, said those “softer skills” are often more useful to employers than raw academic performance.

“Problems are never solved in isolation in the real world,” he said. He said that Udacity might share with an employer someone who has helped 90 to 100 people in discussion forums. “That specific skill has been a better predictor of placement success than academic performance,” he added.

Mr. Ng, of Coursera, reported a similar trend. And frequently the top-performing students also post the most valuable comments in student forums, as counted by how many students “vote up” a comment, or signal that it was helpful by clicking a thumbs-up button. “Students in the top 10 percent had twice as many up-voted posts in the student forums as the students not in the top 10 percent,” he said.

(…) 

I think we are going to see ferocious competition, and hence innovation, in the MOOC universe. Education has never experienced anything like the rate of innovation that is just beginning. 

BTW, looks like Coursera is going after one of the obvious monetization channels – fees for completion certificates. I.e., the education can be free, but the credentials will cost. I have not problem at all with that model — the marginal cost of delivering high quality learning is so much lower for the MOOCs that the certificate fees should be totally a bargain compared to Stanford tuition, fees, etc.

Mr. Ng said that the largest source of revenue will probably come from selling certificates, rather than such matching. So far the company has not charged for certificates, but it plans to start doing so in the coming months.

Things That Can’t Last Don’t: Clay Shirky on the disruption of higher education by MOOCs

The cost of attending college is rising above inflation every year, while the premium for doing so shrinks. This obviously can’t last, but no one on the inside has any clear idea about how to change the way our institutions work while leaving our benefits and privileges intact.

In the academy, we lecture other people every day about learning from history. Now its our turn, and the risk is that we’ll be the last to know that the world has changed, because we can’t imagine—really cannot imagine—that story we tell ourselves about ourselves could start to fail. Even when it’s true. Especially when it’s true. 

Clay Shirky recently published a wide-angle perspective on the disruption of higher education by MOOCs: Napster, Udacity, and the Academy. To set the stage, Shirky cites the recent history of the music industry:

“our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC), and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup.”

If you’ve not been studying the rapid evolution of free online education, then Shirky offers an excellent introduction. If you have been following MOOCs closely, then I suggest you go straight to the Shirky blog — Clay has some angles that you may not have thought of.

One area that needs a lot more discussion is how credentialing is going to work, and the acceptance thereof by employers. Personally, I think the learning part of higher education is going to benefit enormously from the blossoming of efforts like Coursera and Udacity. This is true even for the lucky few who can afford to give up four+ productive income-earning years while they borrow or spend $250,000+ to attend Stanford, MIT or Oxford. That’s because the MOOCs offer a very effective laboratory for learning about learning while experimenting with new learning modalities. If you spend a bit of time reading the Kahn Academy and Udacity blogs you’ll see that they have an intense focus on learning how students learn and what facilitators are effective.

But the most important payoff will not be collected until Google or Rand Corp. accept and respect demonstrated competence from successful MOOC students. Udacity is advancing on this front. E.g., they are partnering with Pearson on testing. Further, Udacity is channeling high-accomplishment students to employers. Both for fees. Education is free if you work at it. The benefits of what you have learned will cost a little bit. And employers will pay their share.

I’m optimistic that demonstrated competence will gain stature relative to elite school degrees. Just thinking about the tech industry, the vast majority of the thousands of new engineers needed are going to have to come from the median college – not just the elite schools.

Those that forecast MOOCs diminishing the power  of the elites are likely to be proven wrong. The elite schools will continue to deliver the signaling and peer grouping benefits. For those with the bucks — the elite schools will continue to be a shortcut to the yellow brick road. But what really matters to the economy and to the next generation, is how the median college performs — how much competence a college graduate buys for their investment.