Or perhaps that should be, huzzah if covid succeeds in killing the university.
Our problem is that the basic set up of lectures is an 800 year old technology which needs to change. As Brad Delong has been known to point out, it didn’t start with the professor doing the talking. Rather, books were expensive. Very expensive. So, one folk would stand up and read it out to all the others. The invention of printing changed that and the internet has made it ridiculous.
But, of course, settled ways are difficult to change.
Online lectures are here to stay with a third of Russell Group universities saying they intend to continue with “blended learning” next academic year.
Eight of the UK’s 24 leading institutions have said that lectures will largely remain online next year, a survey by The Telegraph has found.
So if the lectures are online then what point the being on campus all the time? And we can then go further and make getting a degree not a matter of coursework – some subjects this will still have to happen of course – but a matter of passing the open book finals. Also possibly online. Like, say, the outside degrees run by University of London which at £5k or so a degree are a much better deal than anything else on offer domestically.
As we’re so often told by varied academics when considering working hours, or commuting, or public transport, or all sorts of things actually, there’s a coordination problem here. If everyone’s doing it this way then there’s a problem with wanting to do it another way – everyone’s not doing it that new way. There needs to be either some massive advantage to the new, or some shock to the old coordination, to enable the change to happen.
Universities need to change. Or, rather, society needs them to do so. Maybe covid will be the shock needed?