Saturday, 21 March 2015


From Buzzfeed:

2U offers small class sizes and technology that allows interactive courses to be conducted live online. Its degrees cost exactly as much as they would if you attended on campus. Yale said it would charge $84,000 for its online medical science degree, and says it will be identical to the degree earned by students on its campus.

At the town hall meeting in the wake of Yale’s announcement, that claim—which is one of 2U’s biggest selling points—was a target of students’ criticism, according to two people present. “At the very least, it should be a separate degree,” said Chandra Goff, a recent graduate. “But the sentiment was also that it shouldn’t go forward at all.”

“This is a scar on our credential,” said Daniel Cervonka, an alumnus of Yale’s physician associate program who attended the meeting. “To offer a Yale degree online is not a good idea… It’s devaluing the degree, and it’s devaluing the profession.” Cervonka is the director of the PA program at the University of Bridgeport.

Graduates want less people with their qualification. Lecturers don't want a couple of lecturers doing the courses for all students.


Rich Tee said...

There are two major problems with "online degrees":

- Lack of hands-on experience in workshops or laboratories which would surely be a serious issue for a medical science degree (but isn't a problem for book subjects like economics)

- Fraud. This is why the Open University still insists that graduates sit written exams, and you have to present photo ID in the exam room.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Strange, isn't Yale devaluing its own brand? And why would people pay the same for an online degree as a real life one? Surely it ought to be a quarter of the price?

Lola said...

RT. Indeed. But the OU has sorted it and for 'hands on' disciplines there would have to be some on the job work as well. Engineering say.

The Stigler said...

Sound points. This is even true for things like commercial certifications. The Microsoft MCSD exams require you to attend a test centre.

One thing is maybe things like living a long way from Yale. My mother did a degree in her 40s some 30 miles from the university, because she had a family to look after. But that price differential won't last.

Yes. Maybe we can't do a lot of a veterinary course without people having access to a horse and someone watching them, but that doesn't exactly apply to History of Art.

I know what the cost differences are between classroom and online training, and it's something like 50 times cheaper in my industry (plus you get the best teachers).

Bayard said...

Online teaching has its limitations for practical things, like learning a musical instrument, because there's no-one to tell you when you are doing it wrong.

The Stigler said...


I don't think it suits everything. Although, learning an instrument can be done to a fairly good level without any help - Nile Rodgers taught himself to play guitar.

I'm just seeing how people learn software development, and I know someone who got his Java skills from 0 to being a good developer and having certs by books and just asking developers questions when he got stuck.

Do we need people spending 3 years in another place to learn things? That's based on a model from before the Reformation, when books were in such small numbers that people went to a university to hear them read. Why not learn from your home with videos and have a course leader providing support and doing the marking? OK, you aren't going to do that with medicine and engineering, but there's a lot of subjects you can do that with.

DBC Reed said...

As someone who believes in highly programmatic teaching methods with little scope for "personality teachers" to "improve" Or "interpret" i.e. wander off, the syllabus I suppose I am in favour of these online courses,which the local (Northampton) University is pioneering over here, although the techie aspect is a bit offputting.The Stig's look at the history of universities from the Reformation onwards looks sound but there is the research aspect of universities.People used to get paid a cross subsidy for doing research by doing some lectures (very badly in my experience).Research funding would need looking at.Also ,absent the geographical tie, students could sign up for online courses from anywhere and there could be some really destructive competition with providers from really low rent areas knocking out providers who are stuck with inflated land values.(Yes, I know)
Bayard's point: one of the first pieces of mechanisation in teaching was the language lab; can't see who practising musos can't be stuck in sound proof booths with close circuit cameras to check on fingering/technique with standard microphones to check on tone/ sound quality.

Bayard said...

"OK, you aren't going to do that with medicine and engineering,"

Having actually done an engineering degree, I can say there is an awful lot that could be done from home and if the practical aspects were concentrated into a short residential course, they wouldn't take up much time, saving both the university (most of the time, AFAICR, the practical labs were standing empty and idle) and the student money.

The Stigler said...

DBC Reed,

The rank of "Reader" in universities dates back to the time when that was the job - to read books to people.

Personally, I think the whole idea of higher education needs to be torn down and someone needs to ask what it would look like if you started it now. The idea of 30-40% of the population going away from home, incurring £27K of study debt and student debt in order to learn something that is not commonly applied to work (around 30%) doesn't seem sensible to me. It was more sensible when more people were going to their local polytechnic to study instead.

That doesn't mean there isn't a role for pure academia, learning for its own sake, and research. But I meet a lot of graduates who seem to have no passion for their subjects. I wonder why people would spend 3 years learning geography and yet seem to show so little interest in it after that.

A lot of university is about middle-class expectations, a golden ticket to a better life and one that is a scam on many good people who are happy that their son or daughter has gone to study Photography, even though most of the practical side of photography can be taught in a few weeks (it's about a good eye and hard work, mostly).

DBC Reed said...

Agree with most of this.
What's your source for this information that readers at medieval universities actually read to students?

The Stigler said...

DBC Reed,

I think it was something that Tim Worstall said once. I can't verify it, but in an era when books were hand made (and so very expensive), it makes sense to me.

DBC Reed said...

Not sure if I would take Tim Worstofall as an authority on anything bar LVT of which he is a sound but, nearly silent, supporter. However, the OED gives for the original meaning of" lecture :the action of reading aloud " .On the other hand an early painting of a lecture , the famous depiction of Henry of Germany lecturing at Bologna Univ ( a hotbed of student radicalism apparently),has Henry reading from a book to a hardly spellbound audience who nearly all have books in front of them though some are blatantly asleep or are talking to each other.
On balance the lecturer as reader of scarce books theory probably holds up but more conclusive evidence is yet required.