Students go to Universities for “experience” and not for “education”. Hence, ONLINE OFFERINGS cannot replace traditional Universities… Sorry experts.

High Costs continue to make quality education “out of reach” of more and more students each year and this impact is felt even more in the third world’s aspiration for International education. The news of USD climbing sharply and touching close to Rs 60 is real bad news for thousands of students as without a change in tuition fees, just the dollar conversion will make education in the big apple even more expensive. And don’t forget that with fewer international students being able to pay the fees and the government funding going down, the Universities have to keep jacking up the tuition fees anyways… It is indeed a vicious cycle.

The result of this is before us and as I blogged some days ago, the real data of student visa issuance from India is indicating clearly that FEWER STUDENTS ARE HEADING OVERSEAS now as compared to five years ago.

Here jump in the experts… Instead of advising on ways to cut costs in the traditional universities, they have started prescribing that more and more degrees are offered ONLINE and that the future lies in the delivery ONLINE and some even predict an end for the traditional Universities… What’s hilarious is the fact that many say that the Universities have failed and by naming a few like Gates, Jobs or for the matter in India, Dhirubhai… they say that the University doesn’t matter…

So, lets take it one by one…

Does the traditional University matter and can we simply replace it with Online degree?

The obvious answer to the above is that not everyone is Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. That’s true, and that’s why there’s no college ‘bubble’ forming. Indeed, if we were all like Jobs or Gates, it’s fair to assume that the ‘bubble’ would have already popped. But since we’re not, since very few of us have the entrepreneurial gene, most of us will work for someone else coming out of college.

Because we will, education matters. It matters once again not because of what we’re taught, but because where we go says a lot about how smart we are. College tuition is the price paid by parents and ambitious teens to slot them for future employment. Even without government subsidies, tuition for the name schools would still be high simply because parents and kids will pay enormous amounts for something scarce in the form of an elite degree that carries weight with employers. On the other hand, online education, precisely because it represents the opposite of scarce means it brings with it very little job-attaining value.

And Do we really go to the University only for the degree?

Though skyrocketing tuition and a growing anti-government tide are seemingly swimming against traditional university education, the true educational bubble forming is in the online space.

Yet to hear and read the pundits, online education is set to transform how we learn. Thanks to technology and the internet, kids anywhere in the world can be instructed by the world’s best professors. To buy all the giddy commentary is to believe that traditional college education will meet its maker thanks to crushing cost pressures from the online world. To put it plainly, why pay $50,000+ annually for undergraduate business instruction at Vanderbilt or SMU if for a fraction of the cost you can learn equities from Jeremy Siegel at Pennsylvania’s Wharton School? How about political science classes taught by Bill Clinton?

It all sounds so good and promising, until we realize that college is not about learning much as we might wish it were. Online education would erase traditional schooling if learning were truly the purpose of attending Princeton, or if employers cared what was learned at Princeton.

But when parents spend a fortune on their children’s schooling they’re not buying education; rather they’re buying the ‘right’ friends for them, the right contacts for the future, access to the right husbands and wives, not to mention buying their own (“Our son goes to Williams College”) status. The same is true for students taking out loans.

With university education jaw-droppingly expensive, it’s often asked what in terms of instruction kids are getting in return for the huge cost. Of course that’s a false question. Parents and kids once again aren’t buying education despite their protests to the contrary. Going to college is a status thing, not a learning thing. Kids go to college for the experience, not for what’s taught.

There’s no college-education ‘bubble’ forming simply because teens go to college with an eye on a fun four years, after which they hope the school they attend will open doors for a good job. Online education only offers learning that the markets don’t desire, and because it does, its presumed merits are greatly oversold. There’s your ‘bubble.’ 

This BLOG has quoted from FORBES article ONLINE EDUCATION WILL BE THE NEXT “BUBBLE” TO POP, NOT TRADITIONAL UNIVERSITY LEARNING. Of-course, laced with my “vishesh tippani”.

Yes,the University is not just for “education”… It offers much much more… If there was no Harvard Experience for Mark Zuckerberg, would there have been the Social Media revolution… Certainly Harvard curriculum may not have taught him that, the experience and the situations created by Harvard for him, did. Imagine, Mark being enrolled Online…

The experts who still prescribe ONLINE OFFERINGS need to visit India… They will realise the perception of ONLINE degrees only as options for discards… Lets not create the two tier… So can the costs for traditional Universities come down… Yes it can… Embrace Online in the processes. Stop printing brochures, Increase the class sizes, Reduce the number of course offerings to only the strength areas and become focussed and involve more “PG scholarship students” in teaching of undergraduates. Some say that it will compromise on quality but it will certainly be better than going totally online…

Students don’t go to Universities for “education”. International students don’t go overseas for “education”. They go for “experience” which online cannot deliver…

6 Comments

  1. Ravi,
    Whoever has quoted “that online education is the future” and traditional University studies is coming to an end…..it only seems that they are living in an illusion. Students do not opt for universities study only for education….studying at the university is altogether a different experience where students not only study but do a lot of other allied activities and create their own network of friends from other countries or even locally, they would study together and also do assisgnments and project works together. The other thing i would like to say to those who think that the time is going to be of ONLINE EDUCATION, i would like to know if i am studying mechanical engineering that is through online studies, what happens to the practical applications of it……or do the promoter of ONLINE STUDIES also have a way to provide online practicals…….imagine the irony doing practical of operating a Lathe machine on a COMP…….

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    1. Well several institutions are grappling with declined revenue streams and the experts who are academics too with their own agendas are advising that students come to them for “education” that they impart and so by taking “education” to the students, they can give out a great bargain and still make huge revenue… They forget that it is not only what is taught in the classrooms that bring the students to the Universities.

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  2. I fully agree with you and support your argument Ravi. Online education can not replace the traditional university education at least for the next century in India. As you said it could be used partially to support the traditional education to off set the cost, which is in fact happening at many traditional universities, but it cannot replace the traditional university education.

    The best example for this is the cost of petrol which has gone up many folds in India in the recent years, but the usage has not dropped – it is going up and up.

    Gulshan Kumar Pathania
    Managing Director
    Kangaroo Studies Pvt Limited

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    1. Gulshan, it is akin to strategists in India believing that Indian students go overseas because they want to get the “degree” and so with institutions setting up campuses in India, the flow will stop.

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  3. MOOC or online are not new, many universities with online capability have offered the odd subject for free (without assessment/award).

    Although online will not replace universities it may be preferred by professionals, can be used to fill a credit gap (if transferring) and is also an opportunity for smaller colleges etc. who can offer blended learning and support.

    I recall some months ago an Australian politician said that instead of international students coming to Australia they can study online……. seemed more of an excuse to keep people out.

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    1. I fully agree with you that MOOC and Online do indeed have a role but that role is not as big as is being projected right now. It already exists and there are several institutions that are performing it already.

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