We haven’t always been in the habit of having the newspaper delivered to our home. Not sure if it’s whether we’re just too lousy, or if it’s easier to read the free online version, or for more lofty motives such as avioding responsibility for the destruction of trees to make newspaper (do they still do that, or is it recycled paper?).
Anyway, a few months ago, on a cold and wet wintry night, Marilyn answered a knock on the front door to be confronted by a shivering young man (looked like an overseas student trying to make a buck to pay his fees) selling cut-price subscriptions to The Age, our main Melbourne rag. Her resolve not to have the paper dissolved, and she duly called me to the door to sort it out for her.
So it is that I’m now savouring the joys of my daily morning paper. Yes, I still peruse the online version from time to time, but there’s nothing like the real thing, is there? Basically, to my mind the online version is like sucking on the bones, while the hard copy (bit of a misnomer, given how soft and floppy it is) provides you with the whole succulent feast.
So what’s all this got to do with education, I hear you ask? Well, in this morning’s edition, there’s an article titled ‘Online university of hope‘, introducing us to the University of the People. It’s US based, and its founder is Shai Reshef – you can find out about him on Ning or Wikipedia. Seems an interesting person: he’s an Israeli entrepreneur with an MA in Chinese Politics!
University of the People is a not-for-profit online university with some influential supporters, so it may stand a chance of success in a field which has seen some spectacular failures (albeit mostly for-profit online universities!). There are connections with Yale and the UN’s Global Alliance for ICT and Development. And it’s still small and experimental, with only two programmes (business administration and computer science), a couple of hundred students, and fees are very low (less than my subscription to The Age).
Ultimately, though, whether or not it succeeds “will depend on the quality of the academics behind it” (quoting Peter Bradwell of ‘The Edgeless University‘ fame in The Age article). Not far behind will be the crucial elements of student support and the quality of assessment (so says the UKOU’s Peter Scott in the article).
So, have a look and see what you think. Perhaps you’d like to volunteer as one of their online tutors!