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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Should Education be Free—Remembering the Open University

With the costs of higher education reaching astronomical levels ($50-60,000 a year---really??) is the present higher education model pricing itself out of the average person’s range?  Should a student be paying their student loans as long as their mortgage?  When you look at where the costs go to operate a university you often see a bloated organization that has many costs unrelated to educating students. Higher education has become an industry as inefficient as any other outdated industry.  The online model is giving the traditional campus model a run for its money.  The traditional universities can hold on to the myth that you can only get an education by going to an ivy-covered university with exorbitant costs for so long.

Back in the 1970’s a movement spread around the country to form Open Universities.  The intent was to have education take a less formal form.  Rebelling against the control and expense of higher education the Open Universities were locally organized by people who were interested and willing to teach others in their communities for free.  The classes ranged from people teaching about their hobby to university professors teaching a class they could never get their universities to approve.  Many of the classes were held in instructor’s homes or local coffee shops.  No tests were given but some of the classes did require papers or other evidence of what each person learned.

In DC there was a thriving Open University for about 5 or 6 years.  But unfortunately the University stopped when the cost of printing and distributing the catalog of courses grew too expensive.  The concept may have been ahead of its time.  The online format now can eliminate much of the cost and distribution costs that killed the earlier format. Did you know that there is an Open University on iTunes?  You would also be amazed at the instruction available on YouTube’s Education Channel.

I have often thought that Howard County would be an ideal location for the creation of a Howard County Open University.  With our well-educated population there should be an abundance of persons with a wealth of knowledge on all types of topics.  In fact there are few people who couldn’t find something they could teach.  Cooking classes, bike repair, the Hubble Space Telescope and any American History class would interest me.  Free learning------ maybe the technology has finally caught up with the idea.


Anthony said...

There is also Kahn Academy at It's focus is mainly on mathematics with some science and history content.

columbia20something said...

I love the idea of the "Open University!" I was at Artscape this past weekend, which featured community-taught classes on a variety of topics. There's such a wealth of information out there, and I believe we can all teach something.