Venture Capitalists giving a free Education?

We talk a lot about the “College bubble” in our articles like;

Four Reasons Not to send your kids to College


Opting out of Assembly Line Education

It is our belief that the price of higher education is going to implode due to online competition, the student debt problem, and the lack of a return on investment, i.e. no jobs for the debt laden graduates.

Now this might be a problem for me renting out my student housing, but it will be great for those wishing to get a great education without the massive ball and chain of debt.

On top of these three massive problems The Economist points out another issue this week.

Trade Journals.

The cost to subscribe to a first-rate trade journal,  like the journal of Mathematical Sciences, will cost a library over $20,000!!  In fact last year the ”biggest academic-journal publisher, made a profit of $1.2 billion”  This is “possible because the journals’ content is largely provided free by researchers, and the academics who peer-review their papers are usually unpaid volunteers.  The journals are then sold to the very universities that provide the free content and labour.  For publicly funded research, the result is that the academics and taxpayers who were responsible for its creation have to pay to read it.  This is not merely absurd and unjust; it also hampers education and research.”

This might not be the biggest problem higher education faces, but it adds another stone to the pile.

In another Big E article they conclude that one of the things Germany is doing right, to maintain its status as the engine of Europe  is by “emphasising vocational training instead of producing more and more graduates with often useless university degrees.”

Okay, we get the point.  And we are not the only ones who get the point.

Venture capitalists get it too.

When talking about online competition we usually use Kahn Academy as an example.   With over 140 million lessons delivered and over 300,000 subscribers they have certainly shown the viability of online teaching.  Well those kinds of numbers are bound to get the attention of venture capitalists too, right.

There is now a new site, still in Beta, called Coursera.  This is a cooperation between Stanford University, University of Michigan, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.    That’s some pretty heavy hitters!  Them and the venture capitalists who have dumped over $15 Million into the project too.

On their site they are expanding the possibilities of online learning with greater interaction, tests and even a grade!  They will tackle difficult online subjects like poetry too.   One technique they will use is the social commenting phenomena found on sites like reddit and Google +1 where readers can vote comments up or down.  The comments that are the most useful will rise to the top. Allowing the best possible “class discussions”  This sounds great to us and in fact  the Coursera  site is so good that I had to tear myself away from a Stanford University Game Theory course to write this article.

One more step in the right direction.

We’ll have to wait to see how they’ll make money because we all know the VC guys don’t kick in cash for nothing, but for now go and get edjumakated for free!

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