Wednesday, August 24, 2011

instapundit glenn reynolds has been covering the higher education bubble.
today he posts about the high cost of college textxbooks.
two simple solutions, one easy, one a little less so but more worth doing.
1. teach the previous edition, which students can pick up for around $25.
a ten page summary written by a TA would let them know what's in the new edition.

2. open source textbooks. every first year law student takes property contracts torts and crim law. those would probably be the place to start. have a seminar where the object of the class is to produce an open source textbook, one per semester.
not only is this project worth doing in and of itself, it gives leverage when negotiating prices with textbook manufacturers.it's like when a walmart opens in town,
prices at the other stores drop 10%.

When I was an undergrad, back in the dim ages when computers were mainframes and we were just starting to port our stuff over to the Apple II, I worked at the OCBI, office of computer-based instruction. We had the technology then to replace most of what colleges and public schools do with online instruction that once programmed can be replicated for free. Somehow it never caught on, although the networking concepts we were using, email, chat rooms, online interactive journals, and so forth, migrated over to the internet. I know there are online high schools now, but I don't know if they are actually computer-based instruction, or just stuff like you-tubed lectures and emailed homework. 95% of mass education can be automated and replicated,and teachers can spend the 5% of the time having higher quality interactions with students, to mutual benefit, while solving the fiscal crisis most local governments are caught up in, when they are spending $9K per year to mis-educate each of the three kids of a worker who is making $10K/yr at minimum wage. With computer-based instruction and competition from school choice, the costs can be brought down to more like $3000/yr per kid. Which still takes all of that worker's earnings if the poor were taxed 100%, but it's better than what we have now.

While at OCBI, I had a hot tip to invest in the Apple IPO,and my dad had the money to invest, which he was putting into IBM options, but my dad and I weren't on speaking terms at the time so I never brought it up. It's one of the many many opportunities to "make money fast" on the internet that I missed out on, like not registering beer.com when I could have. I finally at one of my other blogs am getting 1000 hits a day (this one, my main blog, gets about 40 hits a day lately) which I should try to monetize for some occasional lunch money. Maybe project wonderful, if those can run on a wordpress blog.

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