Time to Give Online Education a Shot

Given that we just released our College Guide issue (probably our most famous product), I would be remiss in not mentioning that Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok have a new online education project, MRUniversity. Here’s how Tyler explains it:

1. The product is free (like this blog), and we offer more material in less time.

2. Most of our videos are short, so you can view and listen between tasks, rather than needing to schedule time for them. The average video is five minutes, twenty-eight seconds long. When needed, more videos are used to explain complex topics.

3. No talking heads and no long, boring lectures. We have tried to reconceptualize every aspect of the educational experience to be friendly to the on-line world.

4. It is low bandwidth and mobile-friendly. No ads.

5. We offer tests and quizzes.

6. We have plans to subtitle the videos in major languages. Our reach will be global, and in doing so we are building upon the global emphasis of our home institution, George Mason University.

7. We invite users to submit content.

8. It is a flexible learning module. It is not a “MOOC” per se, although it can be used to create a MOOC, namely a massive, open on-line course.

9. It is designed to grow rapidly and flexibly, absorbing new content in modular fashion — note the beehive structure to our logo. But we are starting with plenty of material.

10. We are pleased to announce that our first course will begin on October 1.

I’ve signed up. It sounds about my speed (and price), and development economics is something I’ve always wanted to study from my time in the Peace Corps. Mostly, I’d like to see how they manage the online model. I’ve made a few halfhearted attempts at learning subjects via things like the MIT open courses, and never got around to it. A real benefit of the university model is the motivation provided by fear of failure, social pressure, etc. (This kind of pre-commitment by talking about it online might help in that regard.)

Also, I’m well familiar with the MR brand of economics and politics. I think there’s little danger of being transformed into a Mercatus Center scholar. I’m more curious to see how it works than anything else. What do you think?

@ryanlcooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, is currently the Washington correspondent for The Week.