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Why Cut out the Classroom?

Personally, as a student of a private liberal arts college in Minnesota, I’m shocked to hear the classroom spoken of as something to be removed from the education process rather than something to be enhanced.

Aaron Sinner, Minnesota 2020

On his “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” appearance, Governor Pawlenty suggested a way to save money on higher education through the implementation of new technology.  Pawlenty’s plan assumes that teachers are still using the old ways of thinking about education, which have been replaced, in many cases, with teaching methods far more effective at preparing students for the future.

The governor’s suggestion goes like this: “Is there another way to deliver the service other than a one-size-fits-all monopoly provider that says, ‘Show up at nine o’clock on Wednesday morning for Econ 101’? Can’t I just pull that down on my iPhone or my iPad whenever the heck I feel like it from wherever I feel like, and instead of paying thousands of dollars can I pay a hundred ninety-nine for iCollege?”

The governor’s plan suggests using technology to reduce costs and increase access, which on the face of it sounds great. But it runs in direct conflict with the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”  This plan creates a scenario of cutting costs by using a professor to create the curriculum for the masses, and dozens of graduate assistants to facilitate the actual course work. This cheats students out of the rich experience they would have gained from a seasoned teacher’s vast knowledge.  That’s just one of many downfalls.  Short of this drastic cost-cutting measure, online classes would cost the same as those taken in-class, which is the current case–at some institutions online courses are even more expensive.