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[P]
Education Wants to be Free?

By rusty in News
Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 12:51:12 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

The Washington Post reports that Michael Saylor, billionaire founder of Microstrategy, is starting an online university. And he wants it to be free for students. He's already set aside US$100 million, and plans to contribute more, and assemble a staff of educators and technicians within nine months. Initially, he doesn't plan to pay the teachers, either, expecting that they will do it for name recognition, or the chance to teach more people than they ever could in a classroom. 21st century philanthropy, or pie in the sky?


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Education Wants to be Free? | 29 comments (29 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Interesting concept for the 21st Ce... (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by scorpion on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 09:01:32 AM EST

scorpion voted 1 on this story.

Interesting concept for the 21st Century! Or is it just a way of creating more wealth for the few by using the 20th Century media to gain attention? As Saylor says himself.." if done wrong it's just noise in a can".

Pie in the Sky. One of the best bit... (4.00 / 1) (#1)
by hattig on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 09:02:17 AM EST

hattig voted 1 on this story.

Pie in the Sky. One of the best bits about university is that you get to live away from home and fend for yourself, and learn about life and living when your parents aren't cooking food and paying the bills and hoovering etc. I can't see that many people wanting to stay at home for another 3 years, and I can't see that many people wanting to make a name for themselves for free, when they could be earning money elsewhere!

On the other hand, for people with jobs that want to gain more qualifications, or people who can't afford to go to a real university, then this scheme would be ideal. Expect a lot of adult members gaining 2nd or 3rd degrees in the spare time.

Re: Pie in the Sky. One of the best bit... (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by analog on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 02:23:52 PM EST

On the other hand, for people with jobs that want to gain more qualifications, or people who can't afford to go to a real university, then this scheme would be ideal.

I may be wrong about this, but I doubt that these online colleges are aimed at the same people that are attending standard colleges now. I don't know about the UK, but here in the States far more people fall into one of the two groups you mentioned than fit the typical "just graduated from high school going off to college" profile.

In California our local community colleges are exploding with new students, but the last statistics I saw showed that over 60% of those students had been in the workforce for at least five years and were returning to school to either upgrade their skills or (more commonly) make a career change. A study done by the US gov't shows that people entering the workforce today can expect to change jobs/careers 7 times; the availability of this type of schooling can go a long way toward allowing them to actually have a life while doing so.

Again, your country may be different (it would be cool if you could give us a feel for the situation there), but here most people simply can't afford to go to college. Making something like this freely available would open up whole new worlds for them.

[ Parent ]

Re: Pie in the Sky. One of the best bit... (none / 0) (#15)
by Zer0 on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 11:04:20 PM EST

Pie in the Sky. One of the best bits about university is that you get to live away from home and fend for yourself, and learn about life and living when your parents aren't cooking food and paying the bills and hoovering etc. I can't see that many people wanting to stay at home for another 3 years, and I can't see that many people wanting to make a name for themselves for free, when they could be earning money elsewhere!

I wish it was like that at universitys over here, instead most my friends end up with a 2hour trip to/from uni each day.

Also to get into uni you have to be either rich, or do very well at school (english, science, math etc.). Software Engineering requires a UAI of 97 at most unis. Since my english generally sucks, it is impossible for me to achieve such a UAI. While i believe i could handle Software Engineering with little to no trouble, it doesnt matter because i cant do it. I've always wanted there to be some kind of admission test, much fairer than a UAI if you ask me. Theres also the chance you wont get in even if you do get a high UAI because the courses fill up. IMO an online university would be the best thing for education thats ever happened.



[ Parent ]
... (none / 0) (#3)
by stimuli on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 09:32:40 AM EST

stimuli voted 1 on this story.

It's a bit pie-in-the-sky, but what the heck. It could work. I just hope we can come up with a free (libre) streaming format so I can view the lectures on my Linux box :)

I wonder how they'll do tests.
-- Jeffrey Straszheim

Ooh, very interesting. I'm not sur... (none / 0) (#2)
by fluffy grue on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 12:51:12 PM EST

fluffy grue voted 1 on this story.

Ooh, very interesting. I'm not sure if I'd want that to be my first teaching job though. :)

On another note, I thought the hackneyed, trite, cliche, banal, and downright annoying prefix "cyber-" had finally disappeared from the public lexicon. Guess not. :/
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Re: Ooh, very interesting. I'm not sur... (none / 0) (#5)
by Matthew Guenther on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 01:02:42 PM EST

On another note, I thought the hackneyed, trite, cliche, banal, and downright annoying prefix "cyber-" had finally disappeared from the public lexicon. Guess not. :/

Yeah right. It'll dissappear soon after people stop talking about the "Information Superhighway"... and with CNN around I can't see that happening any time soon.

Grrrrr

MBG



[ Parent ]
Re: Ooh, very interesting. I'm not sur... (none / 0) (#21)
by drivers on Thu Mar 16, 2000 at 06:12:09 PM EST

www.m-w.com defines cybernetic as: the science of communication and control theory that is concerned especially with the comparative study of automatic control systems (as the nervous system and brain and mechanical-electrical communication systems) (just go to m-w.com and look it up for etymological details) Now "cyber-" is derived from that term and pretty much anything to do with computers or computer networks is "cyber-", unfortunately. I think it was Bruce Sterling who said that the term cyber is becoming meaningless because computers are everywhere. It's like going into a room and saying, "is this place electrified?" There are some legitimate uses for the prefix cyber. Preferably something to do with cybernetics. I read about that on the web somewhere but damned if I can find it again. (Maybe it was also Sterling...)

[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by henrik on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 01:27:16 PM EST

Side note ->

Here where I live, education (all levels) is not only free, you get paid to go
to school! From 10th through 12th grade you get around $100/month from the
government just for going to school, no strings attached. Before that your
parents get the same amount of money. Later at university you get a lot more
($4-500) + a very low interest loan. You never, ever pay any tuition. (but you
still need to buy the books and provide for your living). As a result, lots and
lots of people are highly educated. (anyone who has the slightest interest in
studying, that is)

Yes - education really wants to be free. Atleast if you happen to live in the
right country (the wonders of a socialistic society :)

-henrik


Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#9)
by ramses0 on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 03:29:45 PM EST

You live in Sweden, according to one of your posts ... that's very neat that
they actually -pay- you to go to school.

Do you need to maintain a certain average?

What kind of majors will they pay you to get?

How do they handle admissions?	Are they selective at all?  Are "smarter
people" encouraged to go to "better schools"?

It would be a dream to go to school and major in "recreational studies" or
"computer gaming" and be paid for doing it... I agree that a well-educated
society is really great, but if everyone majored in Physical Education, it
doesn't seem like it would be too helpful.

If anyone else has other perspectives on education, that'd be cool.

A quick rundown of U.S. schools: Kindergarten -> High School, known as K-12
is pretty much mandatory, as well as free.  After High School, there are four
options... go directly to work, go to community college, go to state college,
go to private college.

These are arranged in increasing order of cost (and ~prestige~).  Going to work
will limit you to ~15-30k a year jobs at first.  My state college costs $1600
per semester for classes, actually less than $10k per year when you include all
my living and car expenses.  Community colleges cost about 1/2 as much as state
colleges, and private colleges can range from ~$5-20k per year for tuition
expenses.

I'd be interested to hear other perspectives.

--Robert

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by henrik on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 04:42:29 PM EST

>You live in Sweden, according to one of your posts ... that's very neat
>that they actually -pay- you to go to school.
Tell me about it :)

>Do you need to maintain a certain average?
Not really...
for grades 0-9 they can't take the money away no matter what.
grades 10-12 the only requirement is that you're *in school* more than 75% of
the time. (so you can skip 25% of your classes and still get the money). Your
grades are totally irrelevent. You can fail all your classes.
For univeristy you need to be entrolled as a full time student, and pass your
classes (that's a toughie *grin* )

>What kind of majors will they pay you to get?

No restrictions at all. If the school offers it, you get the money. It's the
same for all students whatever they're studying. 

>How do they handle admissions?  Are they selective at all?	Are
>"smarter people" encouraged to go to "better schools"

By grades and "högskoleprovet" (same as your SAT's) . If the school has n
spots, the n highest ranking students get in.  That's pretty much the only way
they select students.  So the difficulty in getting in is only related to how
popular the subject is, not how hard it is. (And as a result, it's almost
impossible to become a hairdresser but fairly easy to study for an engineering
degree. Figure that)

>It would be a dream to go to school and major in "recreational studies"
>or "computer gaming" and be paid for doing it... I agree that a
>well-educated society is really great, but if everyone majored in Physical
>Education, it doesn't seem like it would be too helpful.

If you can find a school offering "computer gaming", the government would be
happy to pay to you play quake all day.  Fortunately not everybody wants to
major in PE (but there are several school that specializes in different sports)


>If anyone else has other perspectives on education, that'd be cool.

Education and health care (also free for everybody) *really* rocks in Sweden.
(of course, there's a downside - once you get out of school, and get a job
taxes are high)

-henrik



   


Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#13)
by analog on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 05:36:35 PM EST

once you get out of school, and get a job taxes are high

How high, and what types? I often hear people point to countries like Sweden and Denmark and say that all the benefits their citizens have are great, but boy do they get hammered on taxes. However, it's my understanding that the major tax you pay is income tax. Are there other significant ones (sales tax or VAT, etc)?

I've seen estimates that the mythical 'average American' pays between 40% and 60% of his income in various types of taxes; where you are in that range depends on where you live and your actual income level. However, we still get to pay for our health care, education, etc, on top of that. I'd really be interested in comparing the US with some other countries when it comes to percentage of income paid in taxes (of all types) vs. benefits received.

[ Parent ]

Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#17)
by henrik on Thu Mar 16, 2000 at 11:25:16 AM EST

Take this with a grain of salt.. the tax system is fairly compex (anyone ever
seen an easy tax system in any country?)

But i think the average adult also pays between 40%-60%. I got the feeling that
it can be expensive to be wealthy, you have to pay a lot more (percentage wise)
than others. Corperate taxes are fairly low, only 28%. But the big buster is
the sales tax, a whopping 25%! yep, one fifth of the price is taxes (unlike the
US, the tax is included on the price tag, so you don't feel it as much. hah)..
There isnt any special "health care tax" or "education tax", it's just included
in all the others, so it's difficult to know how much we acctually pay for all
the free stuff.  But.. i think it's probably pretty much the same amount of
money, we just pay for it in a different way..

It's a lot better beeing poor here though, you're always guaranteed the
neccesities of life - a place to live (an apartment or house, not a shelter
type deal), food, health care and education. There are very few homeless people
in Sweden. You might wonder if lots of people take advantage of the system and
just stay at home. Acctually, no. It's not common at all.  Just thought i'd
point it out. :)

-henrik


Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#24)
by shepd on Fri Mar 17, 2000 at 12:34:50 AM EST

>But the big buster is the sales tax, a whopping 25%! yep, one fifth of the
price is taxes.

Ok, so I'm being picky - but... welll... that was supposed to be one fourth,
right? :-)

BTW:  I'd love to quote what you said next time I (AGAIN!) argue that socialism
doesn't make people fat lazy slobs.

I wonder if you could just let me know one thing - are there any restrictions
on things such as freedom of speech, etc... there?  Unfortunately, in Canada,
and the US, there is a stigma on Socialism - it tends to be regarded as
undemocratic, almost making the country into a dictatorship (which I don't
believe for one second).

Oh, and just another thing...  Is it true that to be a Sweedish citizen, you
have to be born there?	Just wondering...

Over here, if you run out of money, you are basically screwed.	You gotta HOPE
that you can find a government supported house.  If not, and the local housing
rates are higher than your welfare check, you are going to have to find a hotel
room to live in until you can get government housing, or, well... lets put it
this way, you WILL be motivated enough to find a hotel... :-)


[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#25)
by rusty on Fri Mar 17, 2000 at 12:43:06 AM EST

>> But the big buster is the sales tax, a whopping 25%! yep, one fifth of the price is taxes.

> Ok, so I'm being picky - but... welll... that was supposed to be one fourth, right? :-)

Actually, as stated, one-fifth is right. Think about it: An item costs four dollars. The tax is 25%, or one dollar. So the total price is five dollars, one dollar of which is tax. So 1/5th of the total cost of the widget is tax. :-)

As for socialism: Sweden is a very small and homogenous country. These aren't bad things, but they're (IMO) two huge contributing factors to the success of socialism in Sweden. Call it the economic slashdot effect-- when a group gets too large, it can't maintain the kind of close-knit commitment that a socialist system requires.

Plus, last I heard Sweden was running a massive budget deficit, and the economy in general was kinda teetering. Was I misinformed, or how is Sweden doing economically these days?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#27)
by henrik on Fri Mar 17, 2000 at 09:50:00 AM EST

> As for socialism: Sweden is a very small and homogenous country. 
> These aren't bad things,  but they're (IMO) two huge contributing 
> factors to the success of socialism in Sweden. Call it
> the economic slashdot effect-- when a group gets too large, it can't
> maintain the kind of close-knit commitment that a socialist system 
> requires.

Yeah, those are some very good issues, but massive socialism does seem to work
adequatly well. Almost all of western europe is goverened by socialdemocratic
governments, or governments with policies that would be called socialistic in
the US. US Style libertarism has never really cought on in europe, and most
people are content with big governments in exchange for the security a
socialistic system offers.  Just a different set of tradeoffs. In reality, i
would think a EU citizen and a US citizen has the same amount of acctual
freedom (whatever that is :).

But what you're saying holds true for communism,  it either requires infinite
resources (like the OSS Community) or a small enough group of people so that
they all care about each other (like in a family). Sweden may be small (same
pop as NYC) but it's not small enough for a communistic system to work. :)

> Plus, last I heard Sweden was running a massive budget deficit, and
> the economy in general was kinda teetering. Was I misinformed, or 
> how is Sweden doing economically these days?

Nope, you're not wrong, only a bit outdated. Most of the '90s where fairly bad
economically, with massive layoffs, a huge cut in public spending etc etc.  But
as of now, we're in the good times. The Stockholm stock market is  one of the
worlds best performers, beating most everybody last year in growth. We had a
budget surplus too - it's not that often that the government acctually makes a
profit :)

-henrik


Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#28)
by rusty on Fri Mar 17, 2000 at 01:18:31 PM EST

Ah. My tentative phrasing was because "last I heard" was a while ago. Glad to hear things have picked up. :-)

I gues when I said a small population was essential for "socialism" to work, I was talking specifically about Swedish-style socialism (and communism-- but I think you might be right, that even Sweden couldn't maintain a communist system for long). While much of Europe is Social Democratic, or socialist, few countries match Sweden in such things as paying students to go to school, and paying for housing and whatnot. Is this true, or am I just being an ugly American making assumptions?

I still don't think a socialist system could work in the US. It's just too damn big! I *do* wish, though, that if we're going to leave the people to fend for themselves, that the government would actually leave us alone, and stop taking the same kind of taxes all of you are paying over there.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#29)
by henrik on Fri Mar 17, 2000 at 02:26:19 PM EST

>While much of Europe is Social Democratic, or socialist, few countries
> match Sweden in such things as paying students to go to school, and
> paying for housing and whatnot. Is this true, or am I just being an ugly
> American making assumptions?

Ehh.. i gotta confess that i don't know.  :) I doubt that many countries do,
but as i don't know, i can't say.

> I still don't think a socialist system could work in the US. It's just too

> damn big! I *do* wish, though, that if we're going to leave the people
> to fend for themselves, that the government would actually leave us
> alone, and stop taking the same kind of taxes all of you are paying
> over there. 

I agree that it wouldn't work, but i don't think it's because it's too big -
your culture is just different and like you said, a lot of people still equate
socialism with dictatorship. Also, your political system makes it extremely
hard for any new parties to get any serious influence.	And why should you
convert? Libertarism works fairly well too.  :)


-henrik

btw rusty, how do you remove stuff from your hotlist? :)


Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#30)
by rusty on Fri Mar 17, 2000 at 03:01:29 PM EST

> btw rusty, how do you remove stuff from your hotlist? :)

Go to the story you want to remove. On any story that's in your hotlist, where the "Add to Hotlist" link normally is, there's a "Remove from Hotlist" link instead. Click that. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#26)
by henrik on Fri Mar 17, 2000 at 07:14:03 AM EST

No, it's supposed to be 20%. 1 * 125% * 80% = 1 :)

Of course we have free speech - and democratic elections. *grin*. 

<rant>
There's a big difference between economical and political ideologies that most
people seem to miss. Socialism and capitalism are *economic* models, democracy
and faschism(sp?) political ideologies. You can implement democracy with a
communistic economic model, and capitalism in a faschism. But a lot of people
seem to think capitalism == democracy == freedom. Sorry, but they're all widely
different things. 
</rant>

The thing that makes it so that people don't "become fat lazy slobs" is social
pressure. It's concidered *very* lowly not having a job, and not trying to get
one is even worse. It'd be extremly hard for someone to have an active social
life without a job. One of the first questions you ask when you meet someone is
"what do you do [work with]?". In theory, yes, people could become "fat lazy
slobs" but in practice it doesn't happen.

Yes, feel free to quote me all you want :)

No, you don't have to be born in sweden to become a swedish citizen. About 10%
of swedens population is first or second generation immigrants. 

Sorry, i don't have time to write more right now.. :)

-henrik 


Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#10)
by diskiller on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 03:42:20 PM EST

Thats it, my mind is made up.

I'm going to sweden ;)

[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (1.00 / 1) (#14)
by fluffy grue on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 07:03:15 PM EST

I should too. Not only do some of the more prominent universities there have a lot of real graphics research, but there's also the crude American impulse-prejudice which actually comes in handy for me. :) (You can probably figure out what I mean by the link.)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#7)
by Matthew Guenther on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 01:27:42 PM EST

I like the idea, mostly because I could probably take a course on something that interested me without having to devote time to actually attending a class. However I think that practically, he's going to have problems attracting good faculty... a class requires more commitment than just coming down to a studio and recording some taped lectures. How will he handle questions from students, assignments, labs and testing?

It may not work, but I will be interested to see how it develops.

MBG



Re: Education Wants to be Free? (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by 348 on Thu Mar 16, 2000 at 09:50:29 AM EST

I agree, these were my thoughts also. Interaction is the key to educational development, that's what makes the difference between knowledge and just memorization.

Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.
[ Parent ]

Accreditation (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by joeyo on Wed Mar 15, 2000 at 04:51:03 PM EST

This is the most important thing for any university or education program. Accreditation. A degree is great but people need to be able to look at that piece of paper and not laugh at your face. If he can get respectability there is no reason why this wouldn't work. Otherwise....

--
"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi

D'oh! I know better than to post without previewin (none / 0) (#19)
by error 404 on Thu Mar 16, 2000 at 04:02:15 PM EST

The most basic implimentation would be no better than a correspondence school
with bad videos.

I certainly hope they take this idea much farther than that.

Whatever they do, it won't be a university. A university is a place to go away
to, at best or at worst a setting designed for the Campbellian mythic journey.

You can't go away to a web site and survive your own incredible stupidity and
that of your peers by the skin of your teeth and the indulgence of your elders,
returning to the real world four or five years later with new ways of seeing
that world and a glimpse at the table of contents of civilization.

On the other hand, if they do it right, it could be better than a university in
some ways. It could certainly reach a wider range of students, not just
students who don't have the money for a regular university, but students like
me, who have too many obligations (father of four, full-time {insert title here
when my boss finishes it. I mostly do web stuff}, scout leader, sculptor...) to
attend classes regularly. And depending on how it developes, it could expose
those students to some rather interesting instructors.

I've seen too many network ideas flounder in the metaphors that spawned them to
have a lot of hope for this one, but if they don't take the "university" idea
too literaly, it could be great.

..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Re: D'oh! I know better than to post without previ (none / 0) (#20)
by rusty on Thu Mar 16, 2000 at 04:24:21 PM EST

I think it'll be less for the "priveleged" teens who normally go off to college (as you express, for them, college serves a different purpose than book learnin' really), and more for people who need to have official education, and can't, for whatever reason, afford the time and expense of sequestering themselves away in the ivory tower. I don't see this being the post-high school destination of many eighteen year olds, but the number of people who are near a phone line, and not anywhere near able to go to university full-time has to be much, much bigger. I think that's their real audience.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Education Wants to be Free? (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Mar 16, 2000 at 07:43:43 PM EST

Nice, way to take a quote totally out of context.

Out of context (none / 0) (#23)
by rusty on Thu Mar 16, 2000 at 10:52:35 PM EST

I assume you mean the reference to "Information wants to be free" in the title? That was the only thing even close to a quote I could identify. This apparently bothers you. Care to explain?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Education Wants to be Free? | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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