Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 12/28/2012 | 89 comments

David Wagner
It has long been suggested that technology was eventually going to allow for enough people to virtually attend classes that we wouldn't need the physical building.

But until now, most people have assumed that there would be something called a school where affiliated teachers would teach. A new platform, Professor Direct, allows for teachers to cut out the school and charge students directly for their expertise.

Each course on Professor Direct starts at $49 per student. Professors can choose to charge more. Professor Direct takes the first $49, but anything over it goes directly to the professor. Some schools will actually accept some of the classes for transfer credit, so this is no free online course designed to just grab eyeballs.

As the platform grows, one could actually imagine superstar professors in all fields choosing to skip out on the Harvards and Princetons of the world to serve their content at luxury prices on a platform like this one. Given the ability to pack literally thousands of students into a class, it wouldn't take too many students, even at $100 per student, to outstrip the salary of a college professor. Of course, there are some current drawbacks.

For one, students can't get a degree directly from a place like Professor Direct. Degrees are obviously important in the current job market, and we're unlikely to see that change any time soon.

Another is that professors will miss out on research support from universities. Travel expenses, labs, research assistants, and technicians are all a part of the built-in cost of a professor that a school accepts upon hiring. Building enough student following to make up for that lost assistance will be difficult for most professors.

Another factor is prestige. One must be at the right university or write the right book to build the superstar status that would command the fees and bring in the class sizes that would make being an unaffiliated professor lucrative.

Still, you're going to have people with the social networking skills, charisma, teaching ability, or ability to overcome research issues that are willing to make a go of it. And the price, along with the ability to transfer credits, is going to attract students.

Even if this alone doesn't bring down the walls of the school, it is clear technology is going to bring the people with knowledge and expertise closer together. If you're the CIO or president of a school, you're going to have to find a way to keep putting yourself into the space or facilitating the contact between students and your own professors. If you fail, expect to be disintermediated.

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michaelsumastre   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   1/2/2013 9:28:50 AM
Re: what about the acceptance?
I checked out edx.org. Does it work like Coursera as well? I've seen a couple of courses that are truly interesting. How does this go? Do you also receive certificates or some recognition? Some schools in Coursera already do that, so that's really an extra boost. Of course, they can never compare to a diploma, but they can boost your credibility when you apply for a job as these are no-nonsense schools to begin with. Honestly, I still have to complete one full course. My schedule sometimes gets too busy to finish one, but based on experience, I like how it works. 
mejiac   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   1/2/2013 9:20:33 AM
Re: Re : Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore
(First Post of the year....)

@kicheko,

Agreed, a hybrid is a good way to go for the time being. And yes, given time online would be the prefered method, and it's a matter of gaining acceptance as the perfered method.
rdv   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   1/1/2013 11:22:16 AM
Re: what about the acceptance?
@michaelsumastre: Wish You A Happy and Prosperous New Year...

There are many courses, the one I enjoyed and learnt the most is mitx, it was free and the questions were really tough... There is one more if you like by edx.org... These are genuine and good... 
michaelsumastre   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   1/1/2013 10:21:33 AM
Re: what about the acceptance?
Anand, I think students can help ensure that by researching about the online school properly. I suggest they read as many reviews as possible. If they can, get in touch with people who have studied or have been studying in these online schools or programs. They can also ask for recommendations from various organizations that certify or acknowledge online courses and universities (or colleges). I am not sure about what you mean by "outsourced material," but as for me, as long as the material is relevant, helpful, and useful for the students, I don't mind where it comes from.  
michaelsumastre   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   1/1/2013 10:18:39 AM
Re: what about the acceptance?
RDV, ditto. I know that some online schools are just plain awful. I even come across stories of students that had been duped by thousands of dollars! But I also like to commend those that are really doing well. In fact, Coursera, which functions very similarly like a regular online school, gives out assignments and quizzes, and they're not the easiest things to work into. You know that even if the courses are for free, professors are dead serious in teaching you something valuable, something you can use perhaps at work or in your daily life. 
michaelsumastre   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   1/1/2013 10:15:44 AM
Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore
I haven't looked into Professor Direct comprehensively yet, but at the sound of it, it could definitely set the trend, and it's going to be a whole new way of interpreting online classes and degrees. To some extent, it's good for potential students especially those who are living in other countries or who are tied to work and other responsibilities. I'd like to believe professors are going to be "more affordable" than regular online education since students directly deal with the teachers. Honestly, it's something I'll seriously consider or look into. 
rdv   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   1/1/2013 5:48:19 AM
Re: what about the acceptance?
@Curtis: I completely agree, I myself had taken up the online degree program and I feel that the course contents were awesome, professors made us work hard on all the assignments, projects and exams... going forward online programs will rule the education system.... 

  Another major boost for popularity of the online education are the cost of the course....
rdv   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   1/1/2013 5:20:34 AM
Re: what about the acceptance?
@Nimanthad: At the end of the course most of the university take up the feedback from every student about the professor, the tools used for online learning.  I hope this survey is fair and professor are rated accordingly...
Anand   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   12/31/2012 11:59:36 PM
Re: what about the acceptance?
It's a great solution for him, and one that I think will become more popular with time.

@Curtis, Yes, I agree with you that they will become popular overtime but do you think such online courses will become more popular than getting a degree by attending the college in person ?
Anand   Professors Don't Need Schools Anymore   12/31/2012 11:58:16 PM
Re: what about the acceptance?
 Cheating and "outsourcing" are inherent in American culture --- I'd argue human nature.

@Broadway, yes its human nature but colleges and institutions must take strong initiatives and steps to overcome such malpractices. I am sure they have enough infrastrcture to overcome such malpractices.
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