Feb 10 2015
04:24 pm

With internet now available to just about everyone, why do we even need universities? Our government; state or federal, could easily provide a website of free online courses, with tests, that could be self graded... no professors!

Individuals could take the tests as many times as they want, at their on schedule, and at their on pace. Once they feel they have mastered the course, they could then pay a fee to take an online exit exam for their degree.

yellowdog's picture

The fact that anyone would

The fact that anyone would think online courses and education are the same thing is why this is a bad idea.

JaHu's picture

One would still need to study

One would still need to study the online books provided for the course, and the tests would never be the same.

Min's picture

The cheating would be rampant.

And what about the college experience? There are benefits to attending a school with people who are also learning the same discipline. Connections are made in college that last a lifetime.

JaHu's picture

Who would you be cheating?

Who would you be cheating? Only yourself! It would basically be a self educating process until you were ready to tackle the real exams.

Min's picture


Because no one could hire someone to come in and take the test for him or her. That happens in person (see recent Memphis scandal), and it will be even worse when no one has to physically show up for the exam and produce ID. In fact, I see quite the cottage on-line industry springing up.

JaHu's picture

Please explain how one can

Please explain how one can take a course that includes a lab practicum online?

True... You couldn't take lab classes online, but is a huge campus needed for those?

My title may be a little misleading. I don't believe the footprint of universities and colleges will ever disappear. Some people, who can afford it, will always prefer the university route, but many classes could become available for all who wish to pursue the online path, and it could easily be provided for little, to no cost, by our government.

Rachel's picture

Actually, I took physics

Actually, I took physics online. The labs required viewing videos, making measurements from them, etc. It worked as far as learning what I needed to learn. It was also really awkward and frustrating.

Labs for chemistry and biology would be damn near impossible to put online.

JaHu's picture

There would be small

There would be small satellite campuses for labs and the students wouldn't even get into the labs until they've reached a certain criteria for the course.

djuggler's picture

Labs can be done from home

With this: (link...)


Stick's picture

Right... Keep dreaming.

Right... Keep dreaming.

Brian A.'s picture

Not sure if

Not sure if serious.

Research, laboratories, social interaction--there's plenty of reasons to maintain physical campuses.

JaHu's picture

social interaction That's

social interaction

That's what bars, churches, and parks are for. But, yes, I am serious.

schull's picture


No,seriously, are you seriously serious? Seriously? Even after all the other comments? You're seriously suggesting that bars, parks, and church give you the same interaction as you would find in a university setting? Seriously?

fischbobber's picture


Bars, maybe.

JaHu's picture

I was serious about the

I was serious about the online school, not so much the bars, churches, and parks comment. But I may have to agree with fischbobber on this one.

Somebody's picture

Already there

JaHu's picture

Those look great, specially

Those look great, specially the MIT classes. Why isn't our government promoting this more?

After reviewing the websites, I realized that they make their money off of support. From what I saw, this could get pretty pricey.

JaHu's picture

It would be a small step by

It would be a small step by step path. The steps could then be combined into stages. All books for the courses could be offered online for free, or for those who would prefer bound books could purchase them at a reduced fee from the gov. Online streaming could provide a virtual lecturer. To keep it interesting, you could video chat with someone in your virtual classroom. This option wouldn't be offered until you passed a certain stage of your course.

Stick's picture

The Answer:

MOOCS and online universities have poor outcomes. link

[B]y all accounts, the San Jose experiment was a bust. Completion rates and grades were worse than for those who took traditional campus-style classes. And the students who did best weren't the underserved students San Jose most wanted to reach.

It wasn't really proving to be cheaper, either, says Peter Hadreas, the chairman of San Jose State's philosophy department.

"The people that do well in these kind of courses are people who are already studious. Or ... who are taking courses for their own enrichment after they've graduated," he says.

"A year and a half ago ... people thought this was going to solve the problems of higher education because people would be educated for less money. That's not the way it's worked out."

We're always looking for the easy way instead of doing what we know to be right. What's wrong with our society?

JaHu's picture

We're always looking for the

We're always looking for the easy way instead of doing what we know to be right. What's wrong with our society?

Much can be learned on the internet. This doesn't necessarily mean there is anything wrong with society. I've learned how to change the suspension on a Lincoln, I've learned how to successfully rebuild an I-phone, I've learned how to write computer programs, I've even learned why might heart doesn't run quite right. The internet can be a great teaching tool if used correctly. So I ask if you can learn so many things online then why can't classroom subjects also taught online. Maybe it's the way it is being taught.

JaHu's picture

I'm probably way off base but

I'm probably way off base but is it used to figure the expansion of the universe?

JaHu's picture

Thanks, I'll keep that in

Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. :)

Would I have to enroll first?

Stick's picture

That's all well and good.

That's all well and good. However, does that qualify as being an education? If so, you've defined the term down to its basest form.

I ask my students about online courses regularly. The majority dislike them. Millennials even...

JaHu's picture

Sounds as if the online

Sounds as if the online courses are poorly designed. There has to be a better way to teach online classes to keep students interested.

A prof's picture

Calling all doctors

If you think online learning is the answer then I wish you the best on the next surgery that is performed on you by a physician who received their medical degree from an online university.

You need to have a higher level of,education, time management and ethics to come close to a quality online college education. So you need to be a pretty darn good student to begin with.

It really is hard to know who is doing the work in an online class. And you miss out on important interpersonal relationships and discussions that aren't available through online learning, no matter how hard you try to make it work.

Online learning may be okay in some instances or for some degrees, (although we need more long term data), but probably not ideal, and, in many cases it is best used as supplemental learning.

Also younger folks today may not be getting enough guidance on what is "good" information available on the internet, etc.

For what it is worth...just not that simple

Rachel's picture

I mentioned before that I

I mentioned before that I took physics online. The course was well-structured, the professor was always available for questions, etc. There were a physics tutor available on campus if you needed more help. It required students to regularly submit assignments, which made you keep up. In other words, it was probably about as good an experience as one can get online.

I did fine with it. But I was really motivated, I had an in-house engineer to help me when I got stuck, and I worked harder at it than I have at any course I've taken before or since. And I wonder how well I would have done if it had been part of a full course load (it was the only course I took that year).

In other words, I'm glad it was an alternative. But it sure wouldn't work for a lot of people. An alternative is all it should be.

Knoxgal's picture

Universities are about more than teaching

Universities are about more than teaching. Equally important is the mission to support and facilitate research. Research pushes the boundaries of our knowledge - that stuff that gets taught in university courses.

Mike Knapp's picture

Learning the use of a scalpel

is best learned online. Nothing parallels that experience when practicing to reinforce muscle memory. That plus getting down a backside sn2 reaction, growing plants and experiencing what pisses off a momma bear are all best learned online. Learning and experiencing is at its best when human interaction is reduced down to atomized learners at terminals.
If my iPhone didn't suck I'd post a picture of the most recent version of Spock in that hole in the ground, amongst hundreds of holes in the ground, surrounded by touchscreen machines and an ambient computer voice. His experience proves the point because starships.

Nelle's picture


With internet now available to just about everyone, why do we even need universities? Our government, state or federal; could easily provide a website of free online courses, with tests, that could be self graded... no professors!

Well, one good use for universities is to learn the proper use of the semicolon.

JaHu's picture

Yeah, proper punctuation is

Yeah, proper punctuation is not one of my strong points.

Knoxgal's picture

What is the point

What is the point of making a snide grammatical correction in the middle of an interesting discussion?

Nelle's picture

The point is

that I enjoyed the irony. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't.

JaHu's picture

I make no apologies about my

I make no apologies about my spelling, punctuation, or grammar.
It's been 40 years since I've attended any type of school. Architecture was going to be my major but I dropped out to start a construction business with my brother. Very few times did I have to use punctuations while building a house.

This is not about me though, it's a little late for that, it's a about creating a good online learning environment for our future generations that anyone can easily take advantage of.

Pam Strickland's picture

If you had become an

If you had become an architect or engineer, your spelling, punctuation and grammar would have been important because those folks are required to do bid letters and analysis and reports for clients all the time. It's how they conduct a great deal of their work. And I can't believe that you haven't had to deal with code inspectors and other such folks along the way in your construction business. In college these days, it's called technical writing, it's really business writing. And it is very important. When I was teaching developmental writing, I would require students to interview someone in the field that they planned to enter about what kinds of writing they had to do so they would understand why writing was important.

Stick's picture

It has been my experience

It has been my experience that writing skills are declining at a rapid rate. Instead of trying to do everything under the sun in K-12, we should focus our energies on teaching basic logic and how to organize ones thoughts in written form.

Pam Strickland's picture

It would, I believe, be a

It would, I believe, be a great idea. Good writing focuses on content and subject matter as well as the grammar and mechanics.

As for semicolons, I'd just as soon we got rid of them.

Rachel's picture

I second this sentiment. It

I second this sentiment. It had been a long time since I graded freshman essays (as in never, since in the old days I taught math and statistics). I have been appalled the last few semesters at how few college freshmen can write a coherent paragraph (and this is at UT, where the incoming GPA/ACT scores are supposed to be higher than ever).

Pam Strickland's picture

I have regular conversations

I have regular conversations with a history prof friend about the pitiful state of writing that college students bring to the game. He wants to grade on substance, but finds he has to grade on writing ability. It's sad.

yellowdog's picture

Frank Bruni in today's New

Frank Bruni in today's New York Times:

But it’s impossible to put a dollar value on a nimble, adaptable intellect, which isn’t the fruit of any specific course of study and may be the best tool for an economy and a job market that change unpredictably.

And it’s dangerous to forget that in a democracy, college isn’t just about making better engineers but about making better citizens, ones whose eyes have been opened to the sweep of history and the spectrum of civilizations.


JaHu's picture

So the general consensus of

So the general consensus of pretty much every one who commented on this thread, is, for the most part, that online schooling in no way will ever replace the campus experience. Which, after this discussion, I tend to agree. But I still believe that if the government were to set up an online universal school of subjects, designed for the less than brainiac students, such as myself, which could be taken at ones on pace, that this would be very beneficial to the populous. Maybe if it were designed as a game to make it fun and more interesting people would tend to focus on it more. If instead of grades, a person could strive for higher levels by earning points, and if a person wasn't satisfied with just their on personal achievements, they could compare their achievements with other competitive online students. Bring on the competition.

There are many ways to approach online education, I just don't believe we've discovered the best way yet.

Up Goose Creek's picture


I am honestly buffooned by the reaction to one extra semicolon inserted in Jahu's post.

His writing seems more than adequate to get by in the business world.

One extraneous semicolon. It feels like there is an overabundance of defensiveness here. And I thought one rule of a good debate was no personal attacks on the opposing side.

Pam Strickland's picture

A misplaced semicolon can

A misplaced semicolon can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Same with a misplaced comma. The difference can completely throw off the debate.

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