The Bright Future of Face-to-Face Instruction

A blog about business and economics.
July 9 2012 9:18 AM

The Bright Future of Face-to-Face Instruction

Tyler Cowen speculates that even with improved digitial technology, few students in affluent societies will opt for exclusively online learning:

Select groups, such as adult continuing education, military officers on ships, precocious 12-year-olds, or perhaps middle class students in Kenya who can’t get the real product, will follow an exclusively on-line model.  But most students will not, at least not in the United States.  College still has considerable consumption value, fraternities improve your job prospects, instructors help motivate, and face-to-face contact imprints a lot of learning on our minds.  Still, there is far too much duplication of lectures and universities are being squeezed by personnel costs.
Advertisement

This seems correct. An awful lot of people who have a kind of ideological dislike of the higher education establishment seem to me to blind themselves to some obviously relevant parallel trends like the kudzu-like spread of yoga studios and 44 percent increase in the number of personal trainers over the past 10 years. Obviously it's not the case that a person needs face-to-face exercise instruction in order to get in shape. On the contrary, the fittest people I see in the gym are clearly highly-motivated folks who are passionate about exercise and probably look at the whole training industry as a laughable waste of time and money. But if you look at the overall shape of American lifestyle it's clear that those people are a minority. Most of us benefit from the motivational and precommitment aspects of having someone there in the room with you.

That's not to say there aren't certain major aspects of the way brick-and-mortar colleges work that are rendered obsolete by digital technology. But the typical person who'd benefit from more exercise is very different from the typical fitness nut, and the typical American in need of more education is very different from the typical supergeek policy writer type.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.