Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Remote Higher Education

When MIT first made its courses available for free online, it seemed to the beginning of something big and path breaking. In a few years online home work help for American students from Indian tutors would become common and post 9/11 the immigration process would become such a theater of absurdity that a lot of Asians students would prefer to go home after completing their education in America. More recently, Asians with years of experience in the IT industry have started to return home along with their school age kids.

For a lot of kids growing up in Asia, a placement in an Ivy League school continues to be the stuff of dreams.
How tos on the subject have been written to become bestsellers. The lucky few that get a full ride to school or are rich enough to pay their way can make that dream come true but for many of the equally meritorious the price tag is an impossible hurdle between them and their destination.

Given the combination of circumstances, the logical next step seems that American universities would make most of the potential of a global classroom. Employ alumni with the right qualifications as offsite faculty to augment their on campus staff and reduce the barrier to entry by lowering the tution for foreign students willing to get an education remotely.

The diploma would read Harvard, the admission process would be just as stringent but the dream of an Ivy League education would come within reach of who are deserving. It would seem the right move for America to remain the higher-ed superpower. While establishing presence in foreign countries is a good start, it is not nearly the same as becoming instantly accessible to the best talent world wide.

Universities would acquire greater autonomy simply from being able to generate vast amounts of revenue on their own. Local kids who slave for years to pay off their humongous student loans would have the lower cost remote, off campus option. It is surprising that the field of education has not reaped the benefits that would seem obvious in a time of globalization and that the only way to an American education for a foreigner is still the dread F1 visa and all the pain that goes with it.

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