Here's a NY Times
opinion piece by Bill Keller on technology disrupting the higher education model of elite brick-and-mortar universities like Stanford:
...one of Stanford’s most inventive professors, Sebastian Thrun, is making an alternative claim on the future. Thrun, a German-born and largely self-taught expert in robotics, is famous for leading the team that built Google’s self-driving car. He is offering his “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course online and free of charge. His remote students will get the same lectures as students paying $50,000 a year, the same assignments, the same exams and, if they pass, a “statement of accomplishment” (though not Stanford credit). When The Times wrote about this last month, 58,000 students had signed up for the course. After the article, enrollment leapt to 130,000, from across the globe.
Thrun’s ultimate mission is a virtual university in which the best professors broadcast their lectures to tens of thousands of students. Testing, peer interaction and grading would happen online; a cadre of teaching assistants would provide some human supervision; and the price would be within reach of almost anyone. “Literally, we can probably get the same quality of education I teach in class for about 1 to 2 percent of the cost,” Thrun told me.
The traditional university, in his view, serves a fortunate few, inefficiently, with a business model built on exclusivity. “I’m not at all against the on-campus experience,” he said. “I love it. It’s great. It has a lot of things which cannot be replaced by anything online. But it’s also insanely uneconomical.”
Thrun acknowledges that there are still serious quality-control problems to be licked. How do you keep an invisible student from cheating? How do you even know who is sitting at that remote keyboard? Will the education really be as compelling — and will it last? Thrun believes there are technological answers to all of these questions, some of them
being worked out already by other online frontiersmen.
“If we can solve this,” he said, “I think it will disrupt all of higher education.”
Disrupt is right. It would be an earthquake for the majority of colleges that depend on tuition income rather than big endowments and research grants. Many could go the way of local newspapers. There would be huge audiences and paychecks for superstar teachers, but dimmer prospects for those who are less charismatic.
I see a larger point, familiar to all of us who have lived through digital-age disorder. There are disrupters, like Sebastian Thrun, or Napster, or the tweeting rebels in Tahrir Square. And there are adapters, like John Hennessy, or iTunes, or the novice statesmen trying to build a new Egypt. Progress depends on both.
Who could be against an experiment that promises the treasure of education to a vast, underserved world? But we should be careful, in our idealism, not to diminish something that is already a wonder of the world.
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Wharton, Berkeley, NYU Offering Online M.B.A.s for the First Time
More elite business schools try virtual degrees to lure graduate students
Starting next year, executive M.B.A. students at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania can earn the $223,500 degree from their living rooms.
After years of resistance, some of the country’s top business schools are starting virtual M.B.A. programs that require only a few days of in-person instruction. Wharton and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business said they would include options for executive and part-time M.B.A. students to take most coursework online in 2023.
This fall, part-time M.B.A. students at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business were given an online option for most of their classes. All of the programs will charge online students the same tuition as those who attend in person, and those online students will get the same degree and credential as on-campus counterparts.
The move to give students flexible location options comes as demand for two-year, full-time traditional M.B.A. programs has been dropping amid a competitive job market and growing concern about the cost of college.
“The pandemic definitely accelerated this in every industry,” said Brian Bushee, who leads teaching and learning at Wharton and also teaches accounting. “I would be surprised in 10 or 20 years if there were schools that only did in-person and did nothing online.”
Between 2009 and 2020 the number of online M.B.A.s at accredited business schools in the U.S. more than doubled, and schools added more fully online M.B.A. degrees over the past two years during the pandemic, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Recent announcements by Wharton and others mark a turning point for adoption of the degrees even at highly ranked campuses, school leaders say.
At Stern, even the students who choose online courses are required to take nine in-person credits, which can be completed on nights or weekends, or by doing an intensive weeklong session.
Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, which announced its online M.B.A. in 2019, graduated its first online M.B.A. students in August. The degree, which costs $24,000, follows a completely separate curriculum and costs far less than the traditional M.B.A. program. Online M.B.A students watch live broadcasts of professors and talk in small groups or on a virtual online forum. A 2021 survey of students found that 35% received a promotion since enrolling.
Many schools are still reluctant to make a reduced-price online degree because they fear such a product might eat up demand for their traditional M.B.A. programs, said Paul Carlile, who leads online learning at Questrom.
Halley Kamerkar, 36 years old, finished her online Questrom coursework in August and said hearing from fellow M.B.A. candidates in South Africa, Ireland and Miami was valuable.
Ms. Kamerkar, of Salem, Mass., said she thought about graduate school for a long time, but a study guide she bought for the Graduate Management Admission Test gathered dust until she learned about Questrom’s program with its $24,000 price tag. Ms. Kamerkar works in the nonprofit sector and only recently paid back her undergraduate loans.
“I did not want to give up my full-time career to take a step back and pursue education,” she said.