The Internet has allowed for the sharing of knowledge across borders. Online colleges have have attempted to make themselves the cheeper equivalent to traditional college. But traditional colleges may outcompete them with a new push towards open education where anyone can go online and take classes for free. Two of the main websites are edX (MIT) and Coursera (University of Virginia and other partners.) They employ the “freemium” pricing strategy where the whole course is free and then you can choose to purchase a certificate at the end validating your work. Open education has the potential to benefit anyone who can access the Internet.
Specific groups benefitting from open education:
- Those who cannot afford education
- Those who don’t have access to a traditional school system
- Those who aren’t allowed to go to the traditional school system
- Those who don’t perform well in a traditional school system
- Those who want to continue their education but don’t have time to be a full-time student
There are many benefits to open education and top tier universities have made efforts to put some of their content online to be accessed freely by all. However not all institutions are as willing to do this, in part because of a fear of lost revenue. Also some professors and universities want to reserve their content for their students and may feel like they have ownership over their research—like it’s their intellectual property. Another concern in terms of open education, is whether or not the job market will ever come to accept online class diplomas as equal to a college diploma. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon, so in the mean time open education could realistically be used as a supplement to traditional education or for the love of learning. In countries other than the US, their job markets may be more willing to accept online certificates as legitimate education experience, so the full benefits of open education may still be able to be experienced elsewhere.
It is hard to imagine universities fully adopting the open education model and continuing to make the same profit. Also not having the ability to hear class discussions, debate fellow students, and collaborate with others on projects makes the open education model seem incomplete. Although it does not seem like open education could replace the traditional schooling system, open education’s benefits still remain. Having a more educated world will lead to many positive externalities as education empowers individuals to rise above their circumstances and solve public problems.
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