I recently joined Amazon Prime. If you don’t know what that is, you pay one price and for a year you get free 2 day shipping on most items plus a whole bunch of on demand video content. I got it primarily because I have a 5 month old and having the fast shipping for small items is useful to me. Even so, I have been exploring the instant video library. Overall, I already have most of it on Netflix but unlike Netflix, if you find a video you can’t get on instant video, you have the option to buy it right then via Amazon’s store. Admittedly, this isn’t a new concept but it’s very seamless.
Often times when you go through these video libraries, you will find videos that are not exactly the latest and most popular ones. Nonetheless there are markets for them. This got me thinking though, could education be like this?
Imagine an online repository of education content. This content will be lessons aggregated from providers from around the world. Many of these lessons such as basic concepts will be free. Some will be subsidized by the government or by private providers. For example, churches might provide religious lessons for free. You can try these lessons out and see if you can learn from them. If you like it, you can purchase more lessons for a small fee. If you don’t like them, there will be many other providers teaching essentially the same thing. Find one you like. The nature of this content will run from just recorded live lectures to online live sessions at certain times, to machine generated lessons, to complete semester based courses at major universities. For many of these courses you won’t get any credit but there would be an option to buy the assessment from a variety of providers. Some assessment providers would have a different reputation and therefore open up more doors in society. For example, you might be able to take a course from Harvard Business school, but until you buy the assessment it might not be as much use to you. Who knows?
It’s important to understand the technology to do this exists now. What would need to change is the economics of higher education, and I think that will happen soon.
As always, I invite comments!