Recalling T.S Eliot’s The Hollow Men, “not with a pop but a fizzle.” The higher education bubble ends with inevitable disaggregation of classes from the universities that offer them, and soon. No bang but a slow whimpering hiss. Classes, lectures, minors and majors are now being created by IT champions in partnership with credentialed professors and stored on racks outside of the university, then sold back to the universities to accredit them. This is the trajectory of folks like Udacity, Kahn Academy and others who have been creating courses separate from accrediting institutions. That is disaggregation. MIT and Harvard are developing their own joint web site to head this off. But the lid is already off the university’s course creating privilege. Now even Harvard has to compete with every rogue philosopher with an Internet connection.
The University is becoming a “white hat” Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy to bring in the students, because only accredited “XYZ Universities” hold the wand of certification. But even that is only temporary. Imagine Harvard and Yale undergraduate degrees, like the Educational Testing Service (ETS) that administers the SATs. When it comes to a BA or a BS all the Ivy’s will really provide are the Ivy League certified test results (a “Bachelor’s Degree”) of the free on-line education you received from the online classes you took from roaming on-line intellectuals. And who knows whom that Ivy school will ultimately farm out the brute labor of grading their certified tests, probably PhDs in Bangalore. Which makes sense since certified accountants in Bangalore already do vast millions Americans’ tax returns.
Professor Racks are coming: “GeekProfs” whose proprietary classes are stored and launched into the cloud from places like Web Hosting Geeks. The GeekProfs will be independent credentialed professors who use web sites designed for them by professional web designers. That is what the new much cheaper university classes and majors will look like. The age of disaggregated courses and majors created and taught by Professors without Buildings is upon us. Web Hosting services will soon house vast numbers of the on-line undergraduate courses that the wandering adjuncts will both own and teach for established Universities who in turn will serve the GeekProfs’ on-line courses as their own curricula. The long-exploited underpaid wandering adjunct professors will become the intellectual mercenaries of the Internet.