Traditional universities have been the backbone of higher education for the longest time all over the world. Whether enrolled for an Engineering course at the prestigious Harvard University in Boston United States or completing an art major at the University of Limpopo in South Africa, the hustle and bustle of student life resonates with many middle class professionals in the modern day.
One cannot contain the elation that comes with opening an email or letter that confirms the acceptance to study at an institution of higher learning. There is a sense of deep pride and honour and hope of a better future. For the majority that live in impoverished countries, it is an opportunity to carry the burdens of those that have assisted you and in the end give back in any way possible.
Though, with the continued rise in university fees, a NSFAS policy that caters for the poor and excludes the middle – class, slow economic growth and a less than impressive unemployment rate, is it still a financially sound decision to have traditional universities? It is not a secret that university fees have been on an upward trajectory and will continue with that trend until something radical takes place.
Dr Daphne Koller, founder of Coursesa and Stanford Professor, argues that online universities play a major role in ensuring that more people have access to education, analysis of trends in performance of students and improved interaction between students and lecturers.
I can almost hear the echo from detractors arguing that data costs in some countries are exorbitant, access to resources such as computers is reserved for a few and the plight of cybercrime will be a cause of concern in the implementation of online universities. Also, the social and economic effects such as the “freedom and campus life style” and the crippling of businesses situated close to the universities will be adversely affected.
This is indeed true. However, there is no innovative idea that is without any challenges. Policymakers need to ask the important question behind the intention of universities. Were they erected to educate students or educate whilst crippling students into debt?
With respect to cybercrime, we cannot turn on the television without being told that the world is changing and a rapid rate and with the evolution of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the education ministry will have to “Adapt or Die”.
Education is one of the best tools a country can use to emancipate its people from poverty and inequality. It opens up the mind and gives the recipient a different perspective on life in general. Though, if the price of education and mechanisms used to transfer it is exclusionary then its intention is flawed. New ideas to transmit education such as online universities could be the answer to the education conundrum all over the world.