At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Kevin Carey looks at the collapse of newspapers and sees higher education on the same trajectory. I’ll defer to Carey on what the Internet might do to higher ed, but I suspect that as long as there is market value in the credential of a name-brand university degree in addition to the actual product of education, elite colleges needn’t worry about filling their freshmen class. You can only take the newspaper analogy so far: nobody ever got an interview at a job fair merely by being a reader of The New York Times.
It seems to me there is a bigger opportunity, however, to use technology to radically improve K-12 education. While not every child goes to a great school or has a great teacher, it seems reasonable to suggest that it’s easier–and faster–to get every child in front of a great teacher online than to get a great teacher in every classroom.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, has just launched YouTube EDU, a service that puts college lectures online. Great idea. But how about K-12, Google? Why not incentivize teachers to create first-rate videos by splitting advertising revenue from each viewing? This could create a new source of income for low-paid teachers, and a rich trove of material for students. While it obviously wouldn’t be a substitute for good classroom instruction, it could certainly supplement bad classroom instruction. Such a resource would also be a boon for differentiated instruction and enrichment during school, homework help or tutoring after school–and a great resource for homeschoolers or parents whose children are trapped in failing schools.
When you think about the enormous waste of teaching capacity that takes place every day — millions of teachers preparing lessons for audiences of two dozen kids — it seems a shame not to have a mechanism to capture great teaching and distribute it broadly for all students. Tomorrow, thousands of teachers will teach their kids how to add unlike fractions. Undoubtedly there are some real gems among them, some that could produce an “aha” in tens of thousands of kids. In YouTube, the free distribution channel already exists. Why not take full advantage of it?