We spotted an interesting interview Sunday on Conan Nolan’s “News Conference” on NBC Channel 4 out of Los Angeles. Former State Senator Dean Florez (D), now CEO of Twenty Million Minds Foundation, spoke to the capability of online education. There’s an Infographic on the organization here.
For a Democrat, Florez made a lot of sense. His organization is promoting online teaching (once known as ‘distance learning’) on top of ordinary curriculum in higher education. With cameras in lecture halls or pre-recorded courses delivered on demand from cloud storage by ordinary high-speed Internet connections, there’s no reason to restrict the number of students for a class, or charge the rates the CSU and UC schools are gouging these kids for — and there’s no reason to do it live in a classroom. College can go back to what it was designed for — drinking beer and semi-professional sports.
Florez says late in the interview that our State university systems are among the last to embrace this readily available technology (which, of course, offers a much higher level of sophistication and interactivity than traditional instruction). Why seems obvious — the teachers unions and the state employee unions that hold the universities hostage can’t possibly want inexpensive, electronic methodology to deliver course material when its consumers want to use it (vs. when and where they wish to ration it out). Union teachers constantly gripe about class sizes, but using electronic delivery devastatingly invalidates the argument. It could also invalidate the teacher — consider the good press and great reception Khan Academy has received.
Governor Brown was said to be very high on this technology and teaching process, so how long with it be before his unions set him straight and California loses even more competitiveness?
Update: From the Register today, here’s another piece re. online learning from one of the few NY Times columnists we can occasionally stomach — Thomas Friedman: High education revolution. Friedman makes no reference to to stranglehold that unionized teachers and public employees of university systems have on their schools and institutions — but he does make an excellent point on how this technology and courseware could be used as foreign aid for far less of a financial outlay than the US currently makes:
Imagine how this might change U.S. foreign aid. For relatively little money, the U.S. could rent space in an Egyptian village, install two dozen computers and high-speed satellite Internet access, hire a local teacher as a facilitator, and invite in any Egyptian who wanted to take online courses with the best professors in the world, subtitled in Arabic.