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College without college
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xcriteria Offline

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Post: #1
College without college

So, most of us have substantial issues with mandatory, authoritarian schooling. Most of us have big issues with high school. But ultimately, whether through graduating, dropping out, homeschooling, getting a GED, or whatever, it does come to an end.

So, for many, the next step is college. College is non-compulsory and provides a lot more opportunity for choice. It can provide the opportunity to live away from home. Generally, you can get loans for both tuition and housing. There's a lot more to learn at college then at high school -- more subjects, more advanced topics. And, there's the opportunity to meet more people, maybe more interesting people, than high school tends to stick you with. And of course, there's that degree, which might help you get a job.

But much of the same structure of classes is there, non-individualization of curriculum, having to work at a pretty fixed pace within a class, and not getting credit for work and learning done outside of a class syllabus. Depending on what you're like, what classes and program your in, those things might not be such a big deal. But they have been for me. Also, maybe it's just because I'm so introverted, but college has never served as a good way for me to meet other people.

And yet, though I've learned a great deal outside of school, in a variety of contexts, there is something good about having some kind of structure to learning, to being around experts, and to being part of a learning community. Something like college, but different. Something less structured in terms of getting officially accepted, having to pay huge amounts of tuition or drop out, and having any participation contingent on completing a particular set of classes.

On the web, you can migrate in or out of an online community, like a forum or chat room. It's the same way with a recurrent in-person meetup on a topic, or a book club. It's the same way with a library, if it's open to the public, or a bookstore.

What I have in mind is highly idealistic, but I don't see why it couldn't happen if enough people were really interested: something like a college, with both a real campus and an online presence, both much more open than most colleges, but still with a sense of community and of attracting a solid number of "students" and "teachers" (not necessarily exclusive of each other) who participate in much the same way as a regular college.

There could be classes, and even degrees, but the whole basis would be one of flexibility. You could actually depart whenever you wanted without a nasty mark on your transcript, only to come back again later if you wanted. You could get various types of credit and recognition and encouragement for learning, work, and projects done outside of an established framework.

Ideally, such a college would grant legitimate college credits and degrees, even if that stuff was partly limited to the more traditional kinds of teaching and learning. But even without that, there would be a lot of value in this kind of institution. There's value in learning, both personally and in terms of being able to create and do work you wouldn't otherwise know how to do, with or without a degree. What I have in mind could even be an alternative to at least part of high school for some people.

The biggest problem in creating something like this is that what most people really are paying for, when it comes to college, is the piece of paper with name recognition. People have formed colleges before. Religious colleges, private colleges, etc. But to attract real professors, develop a proper library, make something that would draw donors and paying students, such a place would have to charge tuition somehow. It'd be hard to get jump-started (unless it grew from a web site and a small in-person meetup....)

I haven't really thought about this idea in depth in years, but I'm still searching for something like this. Every time I think about returning to college, I remember what it was like for me, and what I actually want out of a college. Open, yet a real place of learning. Providing some kind of flexible structure, and social learning opportunities. A place that isn't full of people just looking for the piece of paper.
05-14-2009 04:41 PM
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Eidolon Away

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Post: #2
Re: College without college

I think that a place like you're describing would be just what everyone here is looking for in an educational facility.

And I think that you're just the guy to make it happen.

Starting with a website is good. Find some knowledgeable people, ask 'em to volunteer their time in the name of learning, and later, start paying them. Growth might be slow, bit it sure would be a wonderful sight.

How were imagining tuition working? Maybe students could buy tickets to lectures or something.

I would like to hear more about this idea. And if I can help get this thing off the ground, I certainly will.
05-14-2009 07:50 PM
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xcriteria Offline

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Post: #3
Re: College without college

Yeah, tickets to lectures could work. There are some events like that in NY, where you pay $10-25 for a lecture, or a meetup with a presentation. For science, business, etc. There could be an optional membership fee that would give you discounts off of lectures. Of course, if it's a whole series of 20 lectures, on something like intro biology, or C programming, then the tuition might approach what you'd pay at a cheap school.

Here's a bit more on the idea:

This could take any form, with two extremes being:
* some pay-to-attend lectures, maybe a cafe and and a rental space in which to hold lectures and other meetups, and a group of “students” living in the same area.
* something very similar to an existing college, just with more much flexibility built into it.

But here's an intermediate model:
* Offer most classes according to the web-based model I'm developing: one or several professors and a production team creates a high-quality, well-produced video lecture series, interactive web instructional and evaluation materials ( including text, animations, interactive models, games, tests and quizzes), and an online discussion group. These resources would be used and reused by thousands of students, anywhere, who would be helped through the material by a network of tutors or “teaching assistants.” (If existing lectures or materials were available online for a subject, those could be used instead or in addition to creating new content – and that's how this would have to begin, anyway.)

* Offer some in-person classes, and lots of lectures, including by the professors/experts from the web videos. They'd give an in-person experience, take questions, present exampned information.

* Offer in-person and online study groups, in which whoever was taking a particular class – “World Civilization,” “Advanced Genetics,” “French III,” “Using HTML,” “How to Survive in the Forest” – was encouraged to meet up regularly for discussion, guest lectures, and video screenings.

* Offer in-person and online tutoring, one-on-one and small group, for people who have trouble with a given subject or just prefer to interact with a live person. This would be paid by the hour, or quesiton, or something.

* Finally, offer evaluation of knowledge/skills. When (or while) a student completes a course, they'd go get assessed, whether this means taking an exam, showing their final project or assignments to a professor, or whatever. In contrast to a regular school, instead of students paying in one chunk for a class+grading, they'd actually pay one fee for the class, and one fee for the test. Kind of like with CLEP exams, but this would also include more kinds of assessment/feedback than just a multiple-choice test. The key is, though, you wouldn't HAVE to attend a class – you could learn the material totally on your own, by studying with other learners, by going to class, by reading a textbook, etc.

The hard part is being able to offer an accredited degree or credits. Maybe that doesn't matter so much, though. Maybe what matters, for the people who would attend this place, more than an accredited degree, is the actual knowledge, developing a portfolio of work samples, and getting personalized letters of recommendation from the evaluators. (Also, it might be possible to partner with some other schools where they could offer the actual credits/degree and most of the learning could occur in this alternate way.)
05-15-2009 05:46 AM
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SoulRiser Offline
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Post: #4
Re: College without college

This sounds awesome. I like the tickets idea and the online stuff and the portfolio idea. I don't see why it couldn't have the regular degrees and such as well, though. I suppose that part would just be more structured with specific projects and things.

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05-15-2009 01:43 PM
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