The recession of 2008 may have caused a great deal of harm, but for many industries, it also sparked innovation, change and growth. Education, especially higher education, has seen enormous change since 2008 and the pace of change only seems to be accelerating. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a huge part of this change, but also highly controversial. With a drop-out rate of 90 percent or better, many proponents of traditional higher education challenge the value and validity of these courses. However, MOOC boosters suggest that the dropout rate simply reflects that many students simply sign up, get the information they need and move on.
It is the speed of technology and how it can accelerate the educational process that has many people both frightened and excited. Some colleges are taking a hybrid approach mixing online technology with traditional classroom approaches and it seems to be working for some. Cost has also bee cited repeatedly as a huge issue. Because the cost of a traditional college education has risen so high, so fast, many people, especially those in the third world, simply can’t afford it. However, with Internet access growing and personal computers and tablets getting cheaper and more powerful every year, MOOCs, hybrid colleges, distance learning, and other educational technology are moving forward.
At the present, the U.S. is leading the way in terms of private investment in educational technology with 168 venture capital fueled deals in 2012 alone. As these projects mature, the rate of investment will likely grow and the effect will also expand. The simple truth is that fewer and fewer people can afford $30-$50,000 per year for a traditional college education. But growing numbers have the will, ambition, and access to technology to find and utilize alternatives. The traditional university model will have to change and adapt or risk becoming another useless anachronism cluttering up the landscape and slowing progress.
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