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article imageOp-Ed: Is it time for the University of YouTube?

By Alexander Baron     Jun 2, 2013 in Lifestyle
The old saying paying for your education has become an unfortunate truism with the replacement of student grants by loans, but is there a better way to study?
Once upon a time, students in the UK used to receive something known as a student grant. This was a very simple principle: they were paid to study, in effect. True, many found it desirable or even necessary to top up said loans with part time work, but once a scholar had graduated, that was the end of it, he or should could go out and find a well paid job, be recruited at a graduate fair, or for the lucky few, head hunted.
Actually, things are a little more complicated than that, there are still some grants, but nowadays one of the biggest worries students have is repaying their loans after they graduate. With costs rising all the time, is there a way to beat this? How about studying with YouTube?
This is far from a new idea, distance learning predates the Internet by decades. The Open University was founded in 1969; correspondence courses in music date to at least the first decade of the 20th Century, and countless people have bettered themselves by home study in disciplines as varied as mathematics, history and art.
Many universities already have their own dedicated YouTube channels, including The Open University and Cambridge University in the UK; Berkeley, Columbia, Howard and Yale in the US. And others in many other countries. This begs the question, why is it always necessary for students to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to study with the university of their choice with all the upheaval and expense this entails?
Granted there are some subjects for which distance learning is not an option. Among other things, medical students are required to cut up bodies, which is not something that can be done on the kitchen table. Dentistry, chemistry, engineering and so on require hands-on experience, lots of it. But there are some subjects that are suitable for distance learning, if not for the entire then most of the course. Check out the Open University's distance learning page.
Perhaps not so alluring for lecturers is the fact that if this were to catch on, it could make many of them redundant. Students in higher education are not children, a lot of the time they don't need the hands-on treatment. To take just one example, here is a seven minute video by a guy showing how to solve quadratic equations by factoring. This is actually secondary school stuff, but the point is, is it really necessary for a tutor to explain this to classes year in year out when students can be given a set video along with a mathematics text book?
Perhaps YouTube could even set up its own university? There are tons of great videos on this and other sites already, but they need to be accredited by institutions of higher learning, or perhaps by governments. This could result not only in massive savings to students and governments alike but as with the Open University and similar institutions it would allow people to tailor courses to suit their individual needs, including around their jobs.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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