Let’s All Just Calm Down

Coursera has been around for a few years now, but has public higher education learned anything from it? Have we learned anything from the other MOOCs and free online learning resources that have emerged over the past few years?

On a large scale, I don’t think we have.

I read an article this morning about Chicago State University having their lowest enrollments in history this year and also losing state funding. They might not be able to keep their doors open. They talk extensively of budgets and low enrollment. They also mention the undeserved population of students who would be hurt by the University’s closure. But no one seems to be asking why the enrollment numbers are so low. Where have all those students gone instead? To another college? To free online MOOCs?

I can’t answer these questions either, but they should really be the only ones worth asking. If a higher education institution offers high quality, affordable and accessible curriculum, then there will be enrollments. And with enrollments come budget increases.

The link, and the disparity, that I see between Koller’s talk and the Chicago State article, is that one is bogged down by bureaucracy and one is not. Students do not want to hear about budgets and they don’t want to pay higher tuition. They want to learn and they want to improve their lives. If Chicago State is no longer giving students these opportunities, then maybe they should be absorbed into a near by college that is offering students what they need.

Let’s not bail out shitty higher education institutions just because they’ve always been around. Let’s instead make invaluable curriculum that students are drawn to and help them access it rather than shaking them down before they walk in the door.

And can we please stop pretending that higher education institutions are the only way students can get a valuable education. Let’s also step out of 2006 and get on with our lives.

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