YouTube U.

KESSLER, ANDY

YouTube U. Now you can sleep through lectures in the comfort of your own home. BY ANDY KESSLER Without much fanfare, college lectures are being put online, for free. MIT lectures can be...

...on a Friday morning after dime beer night at the Fall Creek House...
...Or maybe, just maybe, something else is going on...
...If they give this stuff away on the Internet, doesnít that completely change the economics and bring the faux-Greek revival columns holding up lecture halls crashing down onto quads/Frisbee football fi elds across America...
...As a business, college is growing faster than sales of multicolored Crocs...
...Itís what MTV used to be and YouTube is today...
...Lectures are free, college requires lectures, therefore college is worthless...
...Is this what your neighbors are doing during the day...
...Even better (for colleges, anyway), since 2002 tuition has jumped 35 percent in real terms (thatís adjusted for infl ation, for you French-lit majors...
...MIT lectures can be downloaded from iTunes University, and you can watch Cal professors pontificate on your computer via YouTube...
...No one gives anything away for free without some ulterior motive...
...Could be...
...Just set up a projector and play the video...
...There are deeper forces swirling through the bow-tie crowd...
...And while fi nancial aid is available, there is some $85 billion in student loans outstanding...
...But letís agreeócollege is anything but worthless...
...Is this some new trend...
...I mean, donít they know college is big business...
...I got smarter by the nanosecond trying to decipher the words as MITís Gang Chen rambled on about Nanoscale Transport, dreamed of Gandhi during Calís PACS 164B: Introduction to Nonviolence, and learned how to watch prime time detective shows during USC law professor Jody Armourís discussion of premeditated murder...
...Arizona State is up to 50,000 undergrads while Harvard is stuck at 6,700...
...Think of the possibilities...
...have no value, but the sheepskin and transcripts certainly doó$200K please...
...No plot, lame visuals, talentless ranting...
...Parents have plans for that soon-to-be spare bedroom...
...That way, pretty soon, you wonít even have to show up Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30 P.M...
...YouTube will tell you how many times these lectures have been watched, and so far viewership is less than a comparative religion class at Riyadh U. Harvardís $45,620/year assembly line is not yet at risk...
...Oh well, nice try...
...The best of them boast that they only have to teach one course each semester, as opposed to the two or three that young pups must endure before they are tenured...
...Something funny is going on...
...Who is going to break the news to these kids that they could have bought a Mustang and watched that physics class for free on their laptop between shifts at Dunkin Donuts (which isnít even spelt right...
...Update the lecture every decade or so whether you need to or not...
...Since 1980, the population of students under 25 has grown 40 percentóand for those over 25, itís up even more at 52 percent...
...Brilliant...
...at Olin Hall Lecture Room 102...
...But of course, college isnít worthless, not if you ever want to get a job...
...Today, itís a tortuous branding exercise to prove that youíre too smart to wear a funny hat and offer to supersize those fries, but instead are deserving enough to sit in a cubicle and set up two-tier marketing promotions, which as far as I can tell are some bizarre mutation of supersizing (I couldnít fi nd any marketing lectures online...
...But digital real estate is infi nite...
...So maybe you can give away the content, but without the proof of purchase diploma, no tango...
...There are physical limitations on how many kids can fi t on campuses today...
...Do colleges feel threatened by Wikipedia...
...Perhaps academics have fi nally gotten hip...
...Watch our courses at home...
...Better yet, just have the kids download it into their iPods...
...Letís test your recall of the transitive property...
...The videos promote music (which kids rip off anyway), and the band makes its profi ts touring cities and, hmm, college campuses selling overpriced concert tickets and soon-to-fade T-shirts in the lobby...
...If you like what you see, come drop 200 grand for the real deal...
...This is the new face of higher educationótenured professors doing research who donít have to bother teaching courses ever again...
...In our knowledge economy, itís your ticket to the job dance...
...Creating a video catalog of lectures and putting them up onlineóitís a brilliant move, donít you see...
...A little more skin and some better dance moves and professors would be the new role models in America...
...Makes sense...
...And with email to replace offi ce hours, you wonít need any kind of personal contact at all with undergrads...
...And it would work too, except for one thing...
...Maybe these free lectures are just promotional materials...
...College is not optional...
...Oh, and some well-paid consulting gigs on the side...
...Research, a team of graduate students as underpaid serfs, papers in academic journals, a few talks at esoteric conferencesóthese are the paths to success in the academic world...
...But promotion only goes so far...
...Maybe not...
...They are surrounded by kids all day, a little bit of hipness is bound to rub off...
...I put on my conspiracy theory tinfoil hat and it fi nally hit me: Todayís professors are academics fi rst and teachers a distant second...
...In other words, this would be a great job if it werenít for the students...
...Iíve now listened to and watched what seemed a semesterís worth of lectures, and they induced flashbacks to my permanent seat in the back row fi ghting off the head whips at 8 A.M...
...And Iíve got to admit, these lectures are very much like Madonna or Jay-Z videos: They are confusing and completely unwatchable...
...Right now, 17 million students are involved in higher education, some higher than others...
...In the old days, college was the ticket out of the grimy Pennsylvania town and a certain life toiling in the steel millsóif you looked like Tom Cruise and could throw a football and make all the right moves...
...The lectures may Andy Kesslerís most recent book is The End of Medicine: How Silicon Valley (and Naked Mice) Will Reboot Your Doctor...
...Take a sophomore year equivalency test and get 34 percent off your tuition at Amazon: For the low, low price of $30,000, you can tell friendsóand employersó that you graduated from a small school in Cambridge...
...Try it in the comfort of your own home...
...But something funky is going on...
...Has anyone thought through this whole free lectures thing...

Vol. 13 • October 2007 • No. 7


 
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