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BYU professor: Colleges obsolete by 2020

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Kiss your old ideas about college goodbye.

Why roll out of bed for an 8 a.m. class when you can download the lecture to your iPod for free? Why pay $150 for a 40-pound textbook when a digital copy won't break your back or the bank – and packs information from last week, instead of last year?

Those are some of the questions raised in a profile of Brigham Young University professor David Wiley in the Deseret News.

Most universities, Mr. Wiley argues, have ignored innovation because they think that what they offer is unique. But Google, Facebook, iTunes U, the University of Phoenix, and other online (and often free) services are slowly chipping away at that time-honored monopoly.

But is the online learning experience – even one offered by an accredited brick-and-mortar school – an acceptable substitute for a physical classroom?

Monitor tech columnist Tom Regan explored that question here, remarking that, in his experience teaching an online class, most students appreciated the convenience an online course affords, but longed for more face-to-face time with their teacher.

He quotes Glen Gatin, who was teaching a class at the Canadian Brandon University: Most of today's classes follow "the traditional industrial model, where you go into a classroom, and you sit at a desk, and someone lectures to you for an hour or so, and then maybe a few questions. But the reality is that most kids today are very technology-savvy and multitaskers. And so they actually live in one world, and then we ask them to forget about that digital interactive world and go into a classroom using the industrial model."

Wiley at BYU echoes this same idea, saying that for traditional institutions to remain relevant, they've got to meet students where they are.

Higher education doesn't reflect the life that students are living, he says. In that life, information is available on demand, files are shared, and the world is mobile and connected. Today's colleges, on the other hand, are typically "tethered, isolated, generic, and closed," he says.

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