Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tweaking The Model for "Higher" Education: Faculty Free Agency - the way it used to be

I posted the following initially as a comment over at Brad Delong's location. I do think that we need a serious retooling of education across the board. There is an enormous amount of wasted funds expended in administrative overhead, and the model used today, built in the late 19th century and early 20th century doesn't really work in the New Millennium. Here's my thinking on what I call "Faculty Free Agency."

It's really a throw back to how it was done back in the dawn of civilization. As you read this, imagine Euclid or Socrates walking along the shores of Alexandria or Greece with students trailing behind as they etched ideas into the sands, while the waves followed behind washing the board for a new idea.

We are about a decade away from faculty free agency. The Universities will be the granters of diplomas and may have a raft of faculty certified to offer courses that qualify the credits to be cobbled together for a fee to build whatever diploma you like.

If you are a good faculty member, you would be accredited by a dozen universities, not one. You could teach from your cyber studio in Kauai with a small local studio classroom, and a world wide reach. You would charge 99 cents per student for the class session. You would get a retainer based on the number of students who filed for diplomas at your dozen affiliated institutions. And, most importantly, if you were good, you could have 1000 - 10K students or more if the bandwidth let it at each class session. Thus, you stand to make serious bucks if you are any good.

Yes, this is the old Greek Model. Near as I can tell, it's just me thinking this way - and perhaps one or two others...but the idea will gel as the traditional university model collapses under it's own administrative burden (not to mention extremely expensive overhead).

Would you rather have some Grad Student TA teaching your philosophy course, or Socrates? Now, of course Socrates is dead, but there are some smart folks, like the philosophers doing the radio show on NPR who may capture that market.

Again, we find, that content is king. If your content is no good, you won't have any students. The free market does work if it is indeed a free market. Adam Smith would like this idea, but he's dead too.

Indeed, if you are a smart student, you would cobble together a set of courses taught by the best and brightest from around the globe and then obtain your "diploma" from the best school you can persuade would be appropriate. But the degree then becomes somewhat meaningless - indeed, knowledge and wisdom offer their proof only in the wake of our actions. The proof is in what you do, not in what you retain, based on your accrued acumen in whatever subject you pursue.

Of course, I'm a heretic for even suggesting that there is some tweaking to be done in the existing models for delivery of education, but no one got famous for being safe.

Blog on friends.

Blog on all.


Anonymous said...

"We are about a decade away from faculty free agency."

"Doonesbury" had it described pretty well here:

Anonymous said...

Follow the link to DeLong

Thanks 'Anonymous,' the Doonsbury cartoons hammer the point home.

Linux users might want to look at Anonymous's page,
Notes and reviews, mostly about Linux and Windows software and hardware'

Kubuntu 8.04 is friendly to any user who understands Windows.