Universities are starting to give away their content online, while they still charge tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend. Just what are they selling? Credentials, accountability, and feedback.
Some people are asking why go to college when you can download a college education via iTunes U.
First, you would have no credentials when you’re done.
Second, you almost certainly would not put in the same amount of work as a college student without someone to pace you through the material and to provide external motivation. You’d be less likely to struggle through anything you found difficult or uninteresting.
Third, you’d have no feedback to know whether you’re really learning what you think you’re learning.
The people that I hear gush about online education opportunities are well-educated, successful, and ambitious. They may be less concerned about credentials either because they are intrinsically motivated or because they already have enough credentials. And because of their ambition, they need less accountability. They may need less feedback or are resourceful enough to seek out alternative channels for feedback, such as online forums. Resources such iTunes U and The Teaching Company are a godsend to such people. But that doesn’t mean that a typical teenager would make as much of the same opportunities.