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Thursday, December 14, 2006


1) High resolution video record a couple dozen people each teaching the same college course (e.g. calculus, freshman physics, freshman chemistry, partial differential equations, etc).

2) Make those video recordings free or very cheap to download on the internet. Sell them as DVDs too.

3) Put automated tests on the web where anyone can test their ability to do, say, calculus, freshman physics, etc).

4) Have testing days where you can go to a room and say what you want to be tested in (e.g. calculus, freshman physics, etc). Proctors in the room prevent cheating. Tests are designed by the American Chemical Society (which already has standard tests for subjects like freshman chemistry), the American Physics Society (or whatever it is called) and similar professional societies. Then pay a fee and sit down at a PC that shows you the test questions (variations thereon generated automatically with different numbers and such) and you write in paper to figure out the answers. Then you enter the answers.

5) At the end of the test they tell you if you passed and with what score and that score goes into a database. You then can say you passed freshman chemistry or organic chemistry or inorganic chemistry or linear algebra.

6) Repeat process until the American Chemical Society or similar professional societies say that you have demonstrated your understanding of a bachelor's degree worth of chemistry, physics, math, mechanical engineering, accounting, or other useful topics.

Granted, this does not work so well for topics like Dramatic Arts. But it would save probably $100,000 for each person who wants to earn a degree in an objectively measurable topic.

Tutoring? That costs extra. Do you need it? You'll ask yourself hard questions and try to find people to study with instead.

Randall Parker

I recall that as similar to what I was thinking in the 70's when I did some of my High Justice series of stories, and what Charlie and I were after in Higher Education. I still think it's a good idea. Why don't we try it?

This is another lifted from (Higher Education & Billion Dollar Boy were books he & Charles Sheffield wrote).

It strikes me that not only is this very cheap but, the nature of the net being what it is, any small English speaking state like, for example, Scotland could do this. It might not be possible to do the tests online while preventing cheating without entrants being physically present but international travel is easy today. So long as the tests are demonstrably tough & thus it is not merely a conventional correspondence course doctorate I see no reason why an online degree from the University of Edinburgh, or Islay, should not be acceptable.

Since the point of chemistry is that you become skilled in the lab, it covers only part of what you want. Maybe you could demand success at this before students are admitted to the lab.
Actually in Scotland (or more specifically at Glasgow University) they are starting to do this.

Day lectures are video taped, and later in the evening part time students turn up and watch them with a graduate student (who probably needs the money) in attendance to answer any questions raised. It is not done in the same evening, the lectures are taped over three days at an hour a day and then watched in three hour session by ‘lad & lass o pairts’.

These part time students (genuine paying customers and usually working people) merely have to arrange a day off in order to sit the exam along with the full timers, and can therefore gain the same credits as full time day students.

Glasgow and Scotland have a declining youth population and this is a way for them to get paying customers through the door. It isn’t that widely practiced yet, but I think you may see more of it in the future.
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