Here at Via Meadia, we’ve been thinking extensively about the future of education in America. While nobody seems to have a clear picture of what it will look like, it seems virtually certain that education at the end of the 21st century will look nothing like it does now. Charter schools, homeschooling, online learning, and the rise of targeted training programs as an alternative to universities are among the many contenders for future directions in education. Some are more likely than others to bear fruit, and the education of the future will likely combine elements of all of them. One of the most promising ideas seen recently has been online degree programs offered by major universities, most notably M.I.T.’s “M.I.T.x” program, where university professors teach online, credential-granting courses available to nearly anyone with an internet connection.In a very interesting piece at The Atlantic, Megan McArdle takes a close look at the possible implications of these programs:
9. The role of schooling in upward mobility will change. This is kind of a cop-out, because I’m not sure which way the change runs. I can tell a story where eUniversities make it radically easier for smart, poor kids to advance in their spare time. I can also tell a story where education is very complementary to the kind of personal networks and social capital that middle-class kids can tap through their parents. For poor kids who can get there (and stay there), college provides a lot of education on how to socialize with other college students, and of course, expert professionals who can help you find a job if you ask for help.10. The young will have a much lower financial burden in their 20s. That’s hopefully going to translate into more investment, and more risk-taking, which is great for everyone.11. The tutoring industry will boom. While tenured professorships will go away, there will be lots of opportunity for those who can help an online student pull through a rough spot. (At least until computers learn to do this too).
McArdle is a consistently interesting observer who always has something useful to say, and thinking through a complicated problem like the future of education brings out her best. Read the whole thing.