Stanford has taken their school of Engineering to the world. They join MIT, and a host of other universities in giving away their content for free.
Of everything that the internet has brought us, I’m the most thrilled with this revolutionary new mindset, that knowledge is the province of all of humanity, not a scarce resources to be hoarded and doled out in strict hierarchies of authority.
I’m excited for what this means for the role of the teacher in the coming generation. In addition to being experts in our field, we will need to become more adept curators of knowledge, organizing and presenting it in a compelling way. We also need to become more adept at modifying and evolving our teaching in improvisatory way, as student curiosity and awareness changes. The experience of being in the room should be different, based on who is in the room.
My authority to teach no longer comes from my ability to take money and dispense knowledge – anything I can teach my students, they have ready access to for free online. My authority to teach (if I have any!) comes from my ability to create a compelling environment in which to learn, and to bring to my students attention new ideas in a way that meets their development in a timely manner.
I’m often puzzled by profs here at APU who don’t record lectures, don’t publish their notes, don’t push content out in ways that students can access on demand. They are trapped in a protectionist mindset, concerned that if they give away their content, they will make themselves obsolete. Students won’t attend classes if they can get the content off-line.
If the only reason my students attend my class is because I am holding information hostage, I’m violating one of my fundamental obligations as a teacher. If I can’t give them some other compelling reason to be present in that room, then why shouldn’t I be replaced by a bikini-clad supermodel reading straight from wikipedia?