A couple weeks ago, I asked if online education would kill the university. Although I concluded, as did lots of readers, Tweeters, etc., that it wouldn't kill the university, it's quite clear that higher education is changing very rapidly in a lot of ways. One particular idea I mentioned, courtesy of an article in the Washington Post, was the idea of educational aggregators, taking the best available online content and helping students build degrees to fit their needs. I even came up with a name for my own aggregator, were I to found one: Dawson's School of Online Learning.
At the time, it seemed like a pretty great idea. After all, a traditional university setting isn't accessible to everyone for a wide variety of reasons and a lot of great content is already available online. Why not profit from bringing it all together?
And then I started wondering, if Dawson's School of Online Learning (DSOL, pronounced Dee-Sole, for short, since every school has to have a good acronym) was such a great idea, how would I feel if one of my own kids decided to go there instead of Harvard? Or even UMass? (See what I mean about those acronyms?) If I'm going to advocate for the legitimacy of such a school or even of services like Edufire, am I willing to put my money where my mouth is and "send" my kids there?
I had to give this one some thought. It's one thing for me to put a Johns Hopkins Alumni sticker on my car. It's another to have a sticker proclaiming that I'm a DSOL Dad. Or is it? If my kids walk away with a broad base of knowledge, skills specific to their future goals, and the ability to think critically, do I care if they do it at DSOL or Brown? Especially if the DSOL grad walks away with a tiny fraction of the student loan debt incurred by the average Dartmouth grad?
If one of my kids ends up being pre-med with a serious interest in biomedical research in which he'd like to be immersed as an undergrad, then DSOL probably wouldn't be the best choice. I'll make a couple extra donations to the Alumni association and see if he can get into Hopkins (not that he'd need my help, but it never hurts to have a parent as an alum, right?). But what about a kid who wants to program? Or teach math? Or learn animation? Be a translator?
I think you get my point. I'd be proud to put that DSOL Dad sticker on the back of my Volvo. The point should really be what my kids get out of higher education, not where they get their higher education.