An Educational Mystery

Imagine you were able to get lectures on virtually any topic from world class professors from all of the top universities.  What if the classes were scheduled just for you?  You get to choose when and where the lectures were given and you control the pace of the course too.  Having a hectic week? Don’t worry you can move that physics lecture to next week.  Also, there is never any problem getting into a class you want you can pick any class.   If you don’t like a particular professor you have many others to choose from.  Oh and there is no tuition cost either!   Sounds like a student’s pipe dream doesn’t it?  The amazing thing is that it is a reality today!  Lectures from top professors are available for free- check out open culture.  You can get podcasts or video casts from a very impressive list of universities- Brown, Cambridge, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Penn, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Yale, and many others.   If you know how to get music from iTunes you already know how to get most of these lectures.  There is an amazing variety, and some very indepth topics- for example I downloaded a series of lectures from Yale on genetic engineering.   I can only imagine how the variety will grow in the future.   Here is something to ponder- with such a wealth of education available for free, why is college tuition so expensive, and growing even more expensive? 

5 Responses to “An Educational Mystery”

  1. Jon Runge says:

    I had a website for a couple of years. I made the point that you are making in many different ways. It is astonishing how much resistance there is to setting up a program whereby students can take a test and get a degree once they have participated in Internet programs like the ones you describe. But that day is coming. The problem is that education is largely a government monopoly, and that government education is ultimately not about the students but about employing government educators. This country spends well over half a trillion dollars every year on education, which is no small chunk of change. I have started another free website recently at, which is thrown together and which needs editing when I can get around to it. The point is that government is unable to educate students because government education is politically correct, while true education and the pursuit of truth and true moral character is politically incorrect. To put it differently, in the age of Obama the goal of education is to indoctrinate the public so that the public looks to government as the solution to all our problems. You are proposing an educational system that does the opposite. So the answer to your last question is not a matter of simple logic because simple logic provides an answer which is unacceptable to the current government educational system. In thinking more about an answer to your question, you need to figure out how to motivate people to take steps in actually implementing such a program. Here is one of the problems you will encounter. Bill Gates wants to improve education. He has a lot of money. But he will not do anything to assist in implementing your ideas I suspect because it would be bad for Microsoft’s business. Think of how much software all of the divisions and departments of government buy from Microsoft, for example. Bill Gates does not want to aggravate so many customers, or at least that is one theory. In other words the answer to your question rests in figuring out the various factors that make people resistant to a sensible idea for providing free, privately funded, high quality, easily accessed Internet educational systems. Once you get answers to questions like this, then you can see what steps are required for successfully implementing the free, high quality educational programs that you are proposing. We seem to be thinking along the same general track. Contact me and we perhaps we can do something constructively to improve the American educational system.
    P.S. I looked briefly over your website, and your site seems to be concerned about money generally. So another way to pursue an answer to your question is first to recognize that money (and the corruption that the blind pursuit of money brings) is at the heart of problems in American education.

  2. Rick Francis says:


    Thank you for commenting! I would not expect the system to change quickly- it is both large and conservative. I agree large colleges don’t have the economic incentive to change- they are the ones taking in a ton in tuition. Even if government is resistant to change- it seems to me there must be small private colleges that would be open to change. They could become more competitive by making these types of changes- offering more courses to their students at a lower cost.

    -Rick Francis

  3. Education is still carried out pretty much as it was 100 years ago. This is changing slowly however. A part of it is what you talk about. In another area online classes are becoming very interactive and exciting. Someone is going to eventually put together the best online classes from around the U.S. and allow students to take the courses from various colleges and get a degree. You will be able to take Calculus from the best at M.I.T.. economics from the best at Harvard, and American History from the best at Northwestern.

  4. Luis says:

    I am not accepting the ever increasing rise in tuition across America but I do have some food for thought. Getting a degree in the manner spoken in the article will only guarantee few limited skills of those graduates, namely applying knowledge to exams. It cannot match the skills a graduate could learn at a 4 year accredited university in important areas such as teamwork, leadership, pace/timing, organization, hands on training, comprehensive scope of subjects (to include feedback), grammar, socialization, etc. Although higher learning does not “guarantee” a graduate will attain these skills, hiring managers will more likely call on them for interviews to determine if indeed those skills are indeed there.

  5. jenniferhudson says:

    An amazing thing…who could have imagined few years back that education can take this mode and there will be a whole virtual world now known as e leaning or distance learning…services like have really revolutionized the way education was being carried out few decades ago…

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