Shai Reshef, founder of the University of the People: Changing face of college education
Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student...
FLORIDA, December 18, 2012 — There can be little debate that the Internet has altered the landscape of our society. From shopping to dating and almost everything in-between, we rely on the World Wide Web with an increasing urgency.
Few sectorshave seen as much change in such a short amount of time as has college education. Only two decades ago, the notion of completing an entire post-secondary education from the comfort of home was anything but main stream.
Now, it is quickly becoming the norm.
Few people understand the dynamics of for-profit education like Shai Reshef. He has worked in this field for decades, eventually becoming a remarkably successful entrepreneur. Almost four years ago, he launched a most unusual type of school. Aside from being non-profit, it charges no tuition.
Fittingly, it is called the University of the People.
Its surprising premise has attracted media attention the world over, and this column is no exception. In this first part of a candid discussion, Reshef explains why online education has become so popular, whether or not it will eventually render brick-and-mortar institutions obsolete, how large the problem of skyrocketing tuition rates is, and much more.
Joseph F. Cotto: Online education is a concept that most of us are familiar with. Why do you believe that it has become so popular in recent years?
Shai Reshef: Today, millions around the world are constrained from access to higher education due to financial, geographic, societal, or personal constraints. UNESCO’s youth growth projections suggest that by the year 2025, another 98 million individuals will be in need of higher educational access than what existing institutions can accommodate. Online learning is an excellent way to be able to reach this incredible and growing demand for higher education, not just on an individual level, but to also make the world a better, more educated setting for all.
Furthermore, online provides a quality education. A 2010 Meta-Analysis performed by the U.S. Department of Education shows the effectiveness of online higher education. The millions of students who choose to study partially or fully online demonstrate its effectiveness as well. And the fact that Stanford, Harvard and MIT moved to offer some of their courses online is another testament to the quality of online studying.
Additionally, online education allows for flexibility that physical institutions cannot provide – a fact that is perhaps one of the most influential driving forces in online education’s popularity.
What is unique to UoPeople within online education is that UoPeople is able to provide individualized attention to students online. UoPeople breaks up its courses into classrooms of 20-30 students to allow for direct instructor oversight and manageable peer-to-peer interactions that are highly conducive to learning. Furthermore, the fact that because we are online and globally accessible to all allows us to provide heightened access for diversity. In each of our classrooms, our 20-30 students most often hail from 20-30 different countries, thus allowing for global dialogue on an unprecedented scale.
Cotto: Some people believe that online colleges will eventually render mortar bricks-and-mortar institutions obsolete. Do you share this opinion?
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