February 24, 2017
For this blog, I would like to focus on the role of IP and OSD in the future of American universities. With the rise of the Internet and the incredible access to knowledge that it brings, American universities are beginning to question what they are offering to their students and how they can maintain profitability in the future. In my opinion, universities should move towards an open source format for the education of students. This may involve offering lectures for free online or allowing students to attend university classes and participate in discussions without paying. However, I also think that universities can maintain profitability within this open source model because they offer a unique opportunity for students to gain experience before going into the working world. They also offer students the opportunity to socialize with one another and build connections for the future.
First, I think universities should move to an open source lecture format because it allows individuals to gain access to important knowledge without having to pay for a university degree. The cost of college between 2011/12 and 2016/17 in the public four-year sector rose by 9% and is expected to keep rising (College Board). The rising cost of higher education means that many students who want to attend college cannot afford to do so or end up at community colleges rather than high-level institutions. The opportunity to have a strong education should not be limited to the wealthy. Everyone should be given access to opportunities for self-advancement because education is a key to economic growth, which benefits us all. For example, one group of researchers conducted an extensive study of the impact of education on economic growth and found that “the level of cognitive skills of a nation’s students has a large effect on its subsequent economic growth rate” (Education Next) In addition, a strong education is the key to a stable and informed democracy. For example, Thomas Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as free people” (Monticello). Many universities such as MIT and UVA are moving towards an open-lecture format through forums such as edx.org, MITx.org, and coursera.org. I think this is a growing trend that should continue for the sake of both economic advancement and democracy in America.
Despite open access to classroom knowledge, I think universities can maintain profitability by offering students an experience they can only have at an educational institution. First, universities give students the opportunity to join clubs and organizations, which offer several important benefits. Many of these organizations are pre-professional, and allow students to gain real-life experience before they begin working in a specific field. In addition, these organizations give students an opportunity to try new things and fail in a safe environment, which cannot be replicated in the working world. By offering students a safe incubation space to gain experience and find out what they enjoy doing, universities provide students with an important transition phase between high school and employment in the working world. Second, universities give students the opportunity to network with other students their own age, professors, and professionals in the field they are interested in. Networking with other students not only allows students to build connections that could be important in the future, it also gives students going into specific fields a source of support and information for completing applications etc. Professors can also offer students invaluable support because they are experts in their field of study and can help students navigate career options. Lastly, universities can bring working professionals to students so that the students do not have to seek out the professionals on their own. Therefore, I think universities could still make a profit by charging for these services that are vital to a student’s individual and career development.