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

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.