We’re all well aware of the growing list of high-quality universities offering free online classes. It’s remarkable by any measure.
But we also know the counter-argument: you don’t receive near the benefit from free online education that you get from attending university because much of the benefit comes from being forced to go to class, to take exams, etc.
Fair enough. Whatever the mix is: 70/30, 60/40, 50/50 — it doesn’t matter. Both are important. So here’s the question:
Is there a space for offering the other half of that equation? How about a service that combines quiet space (university like) with “proctors” who present the media, schedule and regulate time, and encourage progress?
Ask anyone who’s tried iTunes University or any other medium for this approach to education and you’ll find the issue isn’t the content; it’s about isolation from other students, and finding the motivation to move steadily through the courseware and perform exercises.
Imagine going into a classroom in a vacant building local to you where there are twenty other people who want to take a CompSci class at Stanford. There’s a regular schedule twice a week, a familiar education-friendly environment, and students to interact with after the session.
It’s not a full reproduction of the university experience, obviously, but it’s a whole lot closer than opening a browser window at home amid the chaos of your life. Students could pay a small fee each session to rent the room and give the proctor gas and coffee money. Plus, the proctor benefits from the classes as well.
Even if this isn’t viable as a business model I think it has potential as a new genre of local meetup group. Who’s up for spinning one up in the Bay Area?