An article at Mashable “In the Future, the Cost of Education will be Zero” doesn’t bode well for institutes for higher education. Universities are a different matter, as higher education used to be free in Germany and still is in countries like Sweden – also top students in any country. In the long run, costs will naturally decrease, but I don’t see language teachers being replaced by videos anytime soon. Also, lower costs don’t mean the price will fall as well – especially in education, a high price tag signals quality. Many of the courses universities offer though could be replaced by open source and keep down overall costs – readings first and foremost. Also, education could be introduced to a broader spectrum of the population, but then again, a certain mindset is neccessary to watch an MIT Video lecture about Classic Mechanics instead of a mundane Big Brother episode at Youtube.
A commenter argues that “automatization can go only so far” – but logical essays i.e. can’t be evaluated by a machine. Nevertheless, PearsonVue is attempting exactly that with the new Pearson Test of English. If it’s technically feasible, I don’t see a problem evaluating other forms of academic production as well, verbal or written.
Still, I’ve had the opportunity to both experience face2face as well as online courses: The biggest advantage is direct intellectual exchange between students working on a case – not doable with today’s tools. Many textbooks are definitely going to be free in the future, it’s just a long way. Education is certainly going to get cheaper – but as long as teachers need to be paid and class rooms needed for social interaction, institutes for higher education are not going to be able to offer completely free courses.