How the Net Could Change Education
June 1, 1998,
BOSTON--Without ever taking a seat in a classroom, millions of students around the world will soon be able
earn a diploma by taking courses over the Internet, computer industry leaders said. The "sage on the
stage" delivering a lecture to a few hundred students will give way to the Internet, allowing tailored
course work to be available anywhere at any time, said Larry Ellison, chief executive of database software
company Oracle."It will create tremendous change at our institutions of higher learning," Ellison
said at a Harvard University conference on the Internet and society, which ended on Friday.
U.S. colleges and universities like Harvard will someday export classes taught by a few superstar professors "all over the world and they will become available to millions and millions of people," he said. The virtual classroom is Wired schools: It takes a village a reality for at least one Canadian university, which captured one-third of the market in Canada for executive MBA s by offering courses on the Internet, said Louis Gertsner, chief executive of IBM.
Athabasca University, located in St. Albert, Alberta, expects 34 people to graduate this spring from its MBA program for working executives offered over the Internet.
"They don't step on the campus," Sandra Davis, marketing director for the program, told Reuters. "A number of them are working abroad."
Many of the students are able to continue with their current jobs thousands of miles from the northern Alberta campus while still taking classes, she said.
"They find because they are working from a computer...that the discussions are much deeper and much more meaningful than one would get in a classroom discussion. The students are saying they have much more time to reflect," she said.
More than 800 U.S. universities and colleges are offering degree courses online, and an even larger number of institutions offer non-degree programs or continuing education through the Internet, according to Peterson's, the college guide publisher.
Ellison--noting that about only 5 percent of the mathematics PhDs awarded in the United States and 20 percent of the engineering degrees go to Americans - said a diploma from a U.S. school was as popular overseas as Levi's jeans. "We have this incredible monopoly on higher education. There's a flourishing market for education in Asia," he told about 500 students and faculty at Harvard. China has more English speakers than the United States and has placed emphasis on generating more engineering graduates, he said. "Harvard is safe, I'm not predicting the end of Harvard," he said, but junior colleges will face pressures to develop an Internet infrastructure and market their professors. He suggested the most highly respected professors would command million-dollar salaries and struggle with universities over ownership of the classroom. But the schools have a valuable commodity in the diplomas, he said. Gertsner said it was not enough for schools, or for that matter businesses, to try to prepare for the future by installing Internet networks. "Technology is not the hard part. The hard part is what has to be done to take advantage of technology," said Gertsner, who coauthored the book Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America's Public Schools in 1994. Universities and in particular public schools must change their culture and curricula to integrate computers and the Internet into the classroom, he said. "A network is an important tool but it won't replace brilliant teachers who can motivate a classroom of kids, parents who can support their kids, and administrators with high standards," he said. "Technology is not the silver bullet. We're always looking for silver bullets in education," Gertsner said.
Wired schools: It takes a village: http://www.news.com/SpecialFeatures/0,5,15118,00.html