Wednesday, 23 January 2013

On-line education and MOOCs

At the start of the year I am sitting in different meetings where on-line learning is put forward as the next big thing that we should all be getting into right now. I'm all for it, but think that we need to ask a number of critical questions before rolling out the ECON111 course on iTunesU or YouTube.

I am slowly putting together a proper post on this for SA universities and academics, but want to start with a few links. First, by simile:
The economist-side of me thinks that maybe universities should not think about MOOCs as a way to reach more students at lower cost, contribute to learning or upliftment or any of the good reasons to do it. Universities should think about it as a way to improve price discrimination. I.e. to get more students to pay more for  the premium campus experience with the Profs. Think of first, business and economy class on airlines. This thinking was inspired by a bit from an a post on airlines by Frances Wooley on the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative blog: The quote refers to an even earlier era of rail travel:

It is not because of the few thousand francs which would have to be spent to put a roof over the third-class carriage or to upholster the third-class seats that some company or other has open carriages with wooden benches … What the company is trying to do is prevent the passengers who can pay the second-class fare from traveling third class; it hits the poor, not because it wants to hurt them, but to frighten the rich … And it is again for the same reason that the companies, having proved almost cruel to the third-class passengers and mean to the second-class ones, become lavish in dealing with first-class customers. Having refused the poor what is necessary, they give the rich what is superfluous.
 I would love to hear some thoughts on this.


  1. Hi Waldo,

    I'm with you. Education is too expensive. For the upliftment of individuals and the betterment of society, we need to make it affordable and accessible anywhere, anytime.

    1. I agree that education is important, but I am not sure that everyone who needs access to education in South Africa, needs the typical economics-1 course. I think that Universities should be thinking harder about the education that people need and tailor products to that.

  2. The content was really very interesting. I am really thankful to you for providing this unique information. Please keep sharing more and more information North-West University