I’ve been inspired in my new business venture by the writings of Anya Kamenetz whose book, DIY U, analyses the new movements in liberating higher education. A recent article focuses on Edupunks, those who are seeking to overthrow tradition higher education, mainly through providing free (or nearly free) content and classes. The article is well worth the read as a resource for free (or nearly free) courses, content and degrees available online. I’m a big fan of free content on the Internet; many of my lectures have been informed by free videos of lectures, podcasts, online discussion boards and course notes.
The part of this particular aspect of the movement is, much like online newspaper content, is still relying on the old institutions (the university) in order to provide content. The professors who are providing this content are paid by the university. Why not allows students to access their lectures? They are still pulling in their salary, there are still students paying tuition and putting their butts in the seats, and chances are, they have tenure and thus almost absolute job security. How many adjuncts have the time, resources or academic freedom to be able to do the same things?
How many of them want to?
At the end of the day, my small project needs to make money or else it will cease to be. I am providing a service that I would love to give away to non-traditional and minority students in order to help them succeed, however they want to. But I also have a family to help support, student loans and other debt to pay off, rent to pay, food to buy, etc… In discussions I have been having on Twitter with others who are passionate about education reform, some have said that real change will come from below. DIY U seems to imply that the changes are coming from the top. I can assure you that change will not come from the middle.
At the bottom, there is nothing left, really, to lose. There is nowhere to go but up. At the top, there is the security, the connections, the money to be able to take a chance. In the middle, there is nothing but fear and necessity. Fear of falling farther behind and the necessity of taking care of your family above all else.
Perhaps there are those in the middle who are braver than I. But for the moment, I have to settle for scrapping something together for myself and for others with the hope that I can make at least a small change, nurture it until it grows into something larger.