High-quality online education can revolutionize K-12 and college education

Both higher and K-12 education are in desperate need of reform, though there are some extremely positive signs are on the horizon. Within a decade we might well see elementary, secondary, and college education become more about learning and less about cushy careers for the so-called “education professionals.”

Last month I referenced the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, and today I wanted to bring to your attention an excellent article on their website by George Leef:

Creative Destruction Coming to Higher Ed

The emergence of high-quality online education could revolutionize college education.

First, let’s provide a quick definition of “Creative Destruction” from the Library of Economics and Liberty (emphasis added):

“Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) coined the seemingly paradoxical term “creative destruction,” and generations of economists have adopted it as a shorthand description of the free market’s messy way of delivering progress…

Schumpeter and the economists who adopt his succinct summary of the free market’s ceaseless churning echo capitalism’s critics in acknowledging that lost jobs, ruined companies, and vanishing industries are inherent parts of the growth system.

The saving grace comes from recognizing the good that comes from the turmoil. Over time, societies that allow creative destruction to operate grow more productive and richer; their citizens see the benefits of new and better products, shorter work weeks, better jobs, and higher living standards.”

The Pope Center’s George Leef opens his article:

“Remember the movie Jaws? I’m thinking especially of the scene where you know that the shark is about to take a gigantic bite out of the helpless swimmer.

We may have a similar scene about to play not in theatres, but in real life. Corresponding to the helpless swimmer are the many colleges and universities that have neither strong reputations nor large endowments. And the shark? Online education.

It’s true that online education has been around for years without doing any noticeable damage to traditional bricks and mortar schools. There is reason to believe, however, that things are about to change.”

Mr. Leef outlines one company that is seeking to provide higher education offering better quality, lower cost, and greater convenience. Leef writes:

“Most students (and their families, and taxpayers) now spend $20,000 to $50,000 per year for college. In return, they get instruction by professors, lecturers, and grad students that is often indifferent. What if they could instead get better instruction for $1,200 per year?

Yes, you read that right – $1,200.”

Of course there are hurdles to accomplishing this transition – but with the cost of living being what it is, there are a lot of incentives for both education providers and students to make online education work. With the advance of technology being what it is, my money is on this becoming a reality in the not too distant future.

Click here to read George Leef’s excellent article.

It’s my personal view that the same incentives and technology will finally help free many K-12 students from the prison that is the public school system. I’ve addressed my personal opinion on this topic here and here, and I must say that reading the following article from the New York Times made me very happy:

Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom

Reporter Steve Lohr wrote about a recent “93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education” that put forward “a most intriguing conclusion”:

“On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

According to Lohr:

“The report examined the comparative research on online versus traditional classroom teaching from 1996 to 2008.”

And:

“The study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing – it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” said Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International.”

Of course there will be financially motivated as well as honest critics, but at the end of the day, it’s about learning – and, in fact, liberty. Parents, children, and those continuing their education after high school should be allowed to choose what’s best for them – and not be consigned to the bloated, self-important, inefficient and ineffective K-12 and University Education Industrial Complex.

©2009 John Francis Biver