So free-lance liberal arts academics looking to sell their knowledge must compete not only against the subsidized, low in-state tuition of community colleges, but even free education. Institutional dependence is built into the academic world. If this idea catches on and succeeds, market forces will likely make independent humanities teaching entrepreneurship impossible.
How does this school limit costs?
To all of those of us who complained at the faculty water cooler that all the talk about "facilitating" and "student-to-student learning" would erode content expertise and cheapen the professoriat: We have arrived. There is now an institution calling itself a university (although its offerings are more vocational and hardly "universal") that has taken this trend to its logical conclusion. This is how they save money, from their Q&A page:
How can a tuition-free university succeed and be effective?You caught the part about using free online materials as well. That is becoming a mantra of self-education, with all the corresponding benefits and pitfalls.
Embracing collaborative learning and utilizing open educational materials, University of the People makes the best use of a student body from around the world while limiting operating costs.
But the University of the People realizes that this can't be done completely without experts, of course. Experts are welcome. On the page calling for volunteers, it says...
...UoPeople has many different exciting volunteer opportunities for everyone...University of the People can work with you to provide rewarding experiences, whatever your schedule....University of the People needs volunteers with a variety of backgrounds, talents and levels of expertise. Your professional skills and experience will help to guide UoPeople students in their quest for knowledge.
To summarize: Your professional expertise will be worth a "rewarding experience" - and not one penny more.
For years we have been seeing adjuncting become more and more the hobby of retirees and others with an alternative source of income or the de facto volunteer/training stage of a risky career. Here, with this project, we see this in its pure manifestation - openly propogated institutional reliance on people who can afford to simply donate their expertise. Are we carrying civilization to new hights when expertise is so common as to be free? Is this the cutting edge of low-cost, high-efficiency collaborative learning? Or will the market turn back and make expertise less common and more expensive in a few years?