The value of education

Albert Einstein said

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.

Luckily, there are some today who feel the same and are making effort to enable the inquiry of the curios to the learned possible in their desire to expand their understanding of the world in which we live.

Matt Asay recently posted, at his InfoWorld blog, about a Wall Street Journal article which discuss the recent trend in Universities providing open access to course materials. I have been a user of MIT’s OpenCourseWare Project from its beginning.

I, like those I have pointed in its direction, have not always had the means (time and money) to commit to a degree or certificate course in the pursuit of “higher” education.

(Yes, I do have a degree [Political Science/Philosophy]. But you try getting an advanced degree with 5 kids, 5 and under, as well as, supporting a spouse’s desire to pursue a second degree! [Adrienne first was working towards an additional degree in Nursing at UVSC. Then paused to get certified as a CNA and PCT. After working for several months at American Fork Hospital’s Mother/Baby Unit, she decided that it was not really want she wanted and is now working at the Springville Library. She will start, in the next year or so, pursuing a Masters in Library Science.] I have always felt, that in this partnership (read marriage), her education is as important, and at times, more important than pursuing advances in mine, as she is/has been the one who has spent the most time at home with our children. (I credit her for providing the home environment that has spawned and developed are kids bases and love of learning.))

The Internet has always provided a lot of resources for self education, but the courses provided by MIT, Yale, Berkeley, etc. provided it in an organized, traceable (You can measure your progress) manner.

As Matt points out, the Universities will not loose money by providing this content. Could they monetize it? Sure. But how what/who does that help? It will not get people in the seats (physical or virtualized) of the classes. Have these experts wasted time in learning these things to give them away? No. Access to them (Where I think the real value in higher education is) is still limited.

Kind of like why you go to the doctor. You could diagnose yourself by searching symptoms online or in a book. But going to the expert is much easier because he/she has specialized knowledge/training that can be applied to your specific case [patient history, environmental conditions etc.] (Kind of like access to those open source support engineers (who have the knowledge to help your customers) or direct access to the software engineers who write and share that code.)

These online libraries can only help to increase the general knowledge and make available to the masses a good that they could get from any provider of that good. There by creating a baseline of where the real differentiator in what the actual value is. That real value is in access to those that can help you when you have questions, concerns or problems and provide you with answers specific to your needs. That is the value add of purchasing support for the opens source software that you use. Or enrolling in a class at one of these Universities. Access to the experts in the product that you want to use.