Saturday, January 30, 2010

Worthless Ideas for Higher Education

The future of education at universities is evidently linked to distance education. If you are unaware of this new development, distance education is where a student does not actually come to a classroom and engage in discussions, listen to lectures, and fall asleep in the back row while texting on his cell phone. Instead, the student has “content” delivered to his home computer. In this way, a student can be offered a rich choice of educational options: falling asleep at home, playing X-Box in another room, or forgetting to turn on the computer altogether.

The administration loves distance education. Not only can it avoid those pesky students actually coming to campus, but can expend its entire instructional construction budget on vital new education projects such as a new scoreboard for the football stadium.

Even more important, as university budgets decrease, distance education opens new opportunities to collect tuition from students who may not live within a thousand miles of the university. Distance education is so much cheaper for a university, that naturally there must be  extra charges. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some universities require a virtual distant parking permit.

It is only a matter of time before we read of a half million dollar contract for someone to coach a Big Ten fantasy football team.
Distance education does work, it is popular, and inevitably this will create its own problems. What will happen when all universities begin competing for the same students? Since the students do not actually come to a campus, there is no particular reason why a university could not allow an ever increasing number of students to enroll. A virtual campus could enroll an infinite number of virtual students. How will a small cash-strapped state university compete with a large cash strapped Ivy League college?

There is only one way: $$Price$$. To paraphrase Earl Scheib; “I’ll educate that student for $39.95.”

Imagine the quality education of the future. A neo-Neanderthal from Moose Crack, Wyoming can get a budget degree in Inter-Dimensional Multi-Media Mass Communication Management Disorders from OxBridge University, Inc., without having to violate his house arrest by removing his electronic ankle bracelet. For an extra $125, he can make the dean’s list.

It’s going to start getting ugly out there as universities begin to really compete for students. Eventually, I imagine universities will begin offshoring faculty jobs. I have a mental picture where the entire curriculum is taught by a single former call center employee in Pakistan. He could earn a little extra money by hiring himself out to students to take the course from himself.

The constant struggling with students to separate them from their money is getting out of hand. We need a more dignified method to separate the student from his tuition. I have a suggestion.

At the beginning of the school year, each student must purchase a new backpack, (naturally in the school colors.) Packed inside each bag could be several thousand dollars in cash. Whenever the built-in GPS unit registered that the student was on school property, a bell sounds every ten minutes and a fresh $5 bill would pop out of the top of the bag. The nearest university employee could just reach over and remove the bill.

Of course, in certain large and popular classes, the sound generated would be enormous, but many of these courses are just noise to begin with.

Or here is a simpler idea. Just auction off the degree to the highest bidder.

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