Higher education is no longer the privilege of the few. Middle class can now access higher education. The number of graduates is growing exponentially. With the introduction of quality Massive Open Online Courses, students from around the world have access to quality education.
Udacity, has teamed up with AT&T and Georgia Tech to offer an online master’s degree in computing, at less than a third of the cost of the traditional version. Harvard Business School will soon offer an online “pre-MBA” for $1,500. Starbucks has offered to help pay for its staff to take online degrees with Arizona State University.
Unopar University offers low-cost degree courses using online materials and weekly seminars, transmitted via satellite. In America, Minerva University has lower fees (around $10,000 a year, instead of up to $60,000). The first batch of 20 students has just been accepted for Minerva’s foundation year in San Francisco, and will spend the rest of their course doing online tutorials while living outside America, with an emphasis on spending time in emerging economies as a selling-point to future employers.
Singapore at risk
Singaporeans are at risk if the global MOOCs provider offer common standards for accreditation. Should common accreditations be accepted globally, Singaporeans will be competing with a huge pool of readily available talent from emerging markets.
Online learning will take the world by storm. The financial and technological disruption will render many universities useless. The cost to train a Singaporean costing $100,000 per student over 4 years will no longer be competitive if MOOCs can train the same quality student for a fraction of the price.
Trend of automation
Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of Oxford University, suggested 47% of occupations could be automated in the next few decades. White collar jobs are not safe from elimination. What can the Singapore government do by then?
Cheap online education will eventually replace faculty. Star professors will outshine their peers. The gap between the best faculty members and the average will widen. Starlets will deliver key lectures. Their online seminars can be distributed to an unlimited number of students. The learning can be automated and the Q/A guided by a cheap graduate student.
I believe the quality of education will sustain and may even increase as students can now hear from the best professors. The question is how will Singapore respond in a global environment filled with cheap talents?