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The $100 Masters Degree From Udacity 191

mikejuk writes "In an interview with Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun, it was revealed that he hopes to offer a Masters degree for only $100, and is close to offering a full computer science degree. 'There are unfortunately some rough edges between our fundamental class CS101 and the next class up, when this is done I believe we can get an entire computer science education completely online and free and I think this is the first time this has happened in the history of humanity.' The latest course from Udacity is on statistics, and he is hoping to top the 160,000 sign up for his first online class on AI. It is also hoped to be the first class where students can visit a testing center to get their achievments formally certified."
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The $100 Masters Degree From Udacity

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  • by Auroch ( 1403671 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @09:46AM (#40343865)

    This here is the future of education. Eventually we'll formalize this further by enabling a quick download directly to our brains that brings everyone up to speed fast regarding the facts of science, discipline, critical thinking, analysis.

    It'll never happen.

    First of all, there is an entrenched education style that has existed since the time of plato and aristotle, of a face to face student/teacher relationship. Also, We also have huge, multi-billion dollar institutions, with huge multi-national partnerships that ensure standardization within the education system. Direct downloads to our brains will not happen, for the same reason that we don't have jetpacks. It is too far in the future, and too complicated a technology - we're at a point where the question is still IF, not HOW.

    Sure, the pendulum will swing towards online learning and decentralized institutions, but the traditional model of education has held up because it is (generally) robust, and closed to abuse. We'll probably see much more online education - and it'll be cheaper - but it won't be free, and it certainly won't be easy, and it will eventually become accessible to only the upper class (as education always is).

  • by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @10:42AM (#40344167) Journal

    I'm almost done with Udacity's free on-line robotic car course. It's fascinating, probably more for the new ideas in teaching than the actual course, though the course is pretty good. I don't know where this is heading, but the impact on the world of having 160,000 people take the online course has to outweigh the impact of teaching a lecture once a semester at Stanford.

    The old system works, and offers opportunity for personal growth that's so far simply not available on line. I learned more from my peers in Berkeley undergrad engineering than from actual course work. I see no good online substitute for having a group of super-geek peers who love to hack stuff, build stuff, and pull off audacious stunts. Communicating by e-mail is just not the same as an all nighter group session of mathematical noodling on an unsolved problem.

    So, somewhere there will be a new balance, where we take advantage of this super affordable access to learning, while somehow giving our young people a college experience. I don't know where it's heading, but it will be exciting to watch.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @11:40AM (#40344539) Homepage Journal

    Maybe, maybe not.

    The idea of a $100 master's degree is subversive, especially considering that a master's is the basic qualification to hold a professorship at a modern university. It attacks the one of the main roles that academic degrees have assumed in our society: being a certification of social class. If there's any doubt of that consider this: recent studies have shown that the average amount of time college students spend studying has dropped from 24 hours/week to 15. Some have put the current figure as low as 10-13 hours/week spent outside of class. Even engineering students spend a mere nineteen hours per week outside of class; today's *nerds* spend five fewer hours per week studying than the average student in their grandparent's generation.

    This lack of rigor is reflected in how degrees are used after graduation. Most jobs that require a nonspecific bachelor's degree (i.e. not in an area like engineering) could be done by an intelligent and well-read high school graduate. Many jobs that require master's degrees could be done by a bachelor's degree holder in that field. It is difficult (although obviously not impossible) for someone who has to work to put bread on the table to obtain those kinds of credentials. So a bachelor's degree reflects having middle class parents more than it does intelligence, knowledge, or intellectual sophistication.

    Now if you can get the actual education for $100, then there'd be no justification to withhold accreditation from a program like this. That would mean that *anybody* could get degrees to use as a credential provided they can do the work. That would completely undermine the higher education system in the country as it now stands. It might spell the end of widespread college education.

  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:22PM (#40344793)

    Ya, this is more an exercise in wondering how large classroom sizes could be, if you could seat 160k people in a room, and how much interaction you need with a human being on the other end.

    Lots of professors would be quite happy to focus on research full time and not have to teach. Pick out the good teachers, the good textbooks, and just play a video of their lectures in a classroom for people who want to show up and interact with other students. The problem with that plan is that you don't then build personal relationships with professors or grad students or other students. Most of us who have done some sort of technical degree can point to an instance or two of a concept we just didn't get in lecture or from the book, and it took a TA or other students to explain it to us... eventually.

    Research still needs to happen with or without the teaching component of universities. But the huge mentoring relationship that happens there, and the social connections, those are a major portion of the experience. How do you know if you want to be a researcher if you don't meet other researchers? A 100 dollar online course is about the same thing as a 100 dollar textbook just more interactive. Did you buy the book? Did you read the book? Or in the new media, did you watch the lecture? It's useful as a reference, it's probably not even bad to teach yourself. But it's not the same as going to university. In the real world you have to teach yourself a lot, whether thats from books or the web or whatever. So in that sense udacity probably will find a significant market in replacing textbooks with at least partially interactive web enabled experiences, for about the same price. It might also enable smaller schools to make available more esoteric topics they don't have expertise in, which is good.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:29PM (#40344839) Journal

    $100 degrees and the ability to download information right into our brains will devalue a degree to the point where you're punished for not having one.

    We're already at that point with degrees which cost $50,000+. A reduction of that to $100 would be a step forward.

    I've got a bachelors degree and 20+ years of experience in software development. I need a masters degree in CS like I need a third eye in the center of my forehead. Yet I see a lot of jobs out there demanding the Masters nowadays, and with applicant tracking systems being the way they are, that means if you don't have one your resume/application will be discarded before ever being seen by a human being. A $100 Masters would be just the ticket to avoid that. (Sure, it wouldn't be accredited... these tracking systems wouldn't know that)

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