Education for the 21st Century
Techcrunch reported today that a competency-based higher educational institution, College for America, has been approved for funding from the U.S. Department of Education through Title IV of Higher Education Act (HEA) funding. Competency-based learning is becoming more attractive all of the time. Students want to pay for actual learning, not seat time, especially since seat time is becoming so expensive, as displayed in the chart below.
So what does this first step mean for higher education in the short term? There are already a number of alternatives to standard higher learning. Online courses have grown substantially, carrying 6.1 million enrollees during the fall 2010 term, which amounts to a 10 percent growth rate, according to a study by The Sloan Consortium. Other services, such as Khan Academy are bringing education to a global student population for free. Khan recently partnered with Bank of America to improve financial literacy for adults with BetterMoneyHabits.com.
iTunes U has managed to improve conventional classrooms, while also giving the masses access to classes from universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and Ohio State for free. Sites like Codecademy.org have allowed hundreds to learn a new skill through free lessons on their website.
Between 2000 and 2010, enrollment of full time students increased 37 percent at degree-granting institutions though, so online alternatives aren't exactly eating into the higher education establishment's market share. With the advent of modern technology, this could change rapidly though.
At the University of Missouri, I've taken two classes so far that used online video lessons. One, a statistics class, allowed me to view 100% of the lectures online, making waking up to get to class an unnecessary task. The second, a communications class, was mostly in-class with a number of lectures being delivered over video. (Most of these lectures were video heavy, so our professor didn't feel it necessary to have us go all the way to campus to watch a movie we could have watched online.) Our professor also told us that they're looking to turning the class into a hybrid of some sort in the future, so the video lessons were somewhat of a trial.
In addition to classes I've taken on-campus at the University, I've taken a 9-month self-paced course through Mizzou Online. All of this combined may indicate that established universities may be ready to take on the competition their online and competency based alternatives bring to the table.