Comments about ‘Universities will be 'irrelevant' by 2020, Y. professor says’

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Published: Tuesday, April 21 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

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What I'm sick of is lack of balance in the university lecture hall. Why are most instructors so liberal?

I also am upset at the costs higher than inflation, often with tax money going to state schools and so little instructor classroom time. We are funding one sided research and their agenda. But why is the student funding all that? Let the alumnae fund that stuff. And let's get rid of tenure.

Fan of Innovative Pioneers

David is also a founding Board member of Open High School of Utah, an innovative new Charter school opening this Fall. The school is virtual and delivers it's curriculum online using open source content. David donates his time to this school to share his passion for innovation and 21st century methods of delivering education. Thanks, David, for bringing quality options to students and parents.


Nice opening statement, why don't you try calling him a prophet?


I wonder if my experiences with college were unique! I graduated with a B.S. degree and took a job in private industry (bioscience). I discovered very little of what I learned in college was useful in the real world. I left college armed with a lot of outdated, irrelevant and useless facts. I found that knowing science was not nearly as helpful to me as learning how to work with other people, skills I had to learn on the job and on the run. I learned much more from reading self help books than anything else! The best help to me was; "the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Steven Covey. Looking back now, most of the time and money I spent in college ended up having so little value to me and taught me nothing about how to succeed in the real world. All my hardwork and money I put into getting the "sheepskin" did for me is get me the first interview! The rest I learned from being quick on my feet. I wonder if others experienced this as well!

Been There

Lectures (literally 'readings') haven't made sense since the printing press made books available to all students. The solution then is not taking lectures and putting them on Ipods. I taught a 'distance learning' course at a Utah university once, and it wasn't what education is about. If what we do in the classroom can be digitised and put online, it should be, but that's not teaching; it's just one more evolutionary step in the presentation of content. Universities will survive IF the educational experience they offer can't be reproduced elsewhere or by other means. That's my goal in the courses I teach now.

Craig Williams

David Wiley's description of open education is exactly what I see in the homeschooling movement. Kids and adults who homeschool share everything they have with others and educate much more openly.

I attended public schools as a kid, but I agree that they are becoming increasingly irrelevant to a society where information is so openly available.

Kids today don't need to go anywhere to learn. They could very well take online classes from multiple universities all over the world from their own homes. They just need a way to have their courses and work recognized and graduate them that is unbound from the idea that you have to graduate from a particular institution. Mr. Wiley - any sugestions how to do this?

ER in AF

I live in Rwanda and my wife is getting her History degree online. We had a devil of a time finding one that does History. Most online higher ed organizations grant empirical based degrees such as business or the like. I work with a bunch of Marines and they turned me on to 2 universities that have a wide spectrum of classes and more importantly acrredited degrees. They are American Military University and Grantham University. Due to the mobile nature of the military the universities can be accessed anywhere and often are more open/understanding of special needs. You don't have to be military. That's just their focus. AMU is like a traditional univ and has specific dates semesters start/end. Grantham allows whatever speed you want with maximum limits but no minimums. If you are speedy you go as fast as you want. I compared them to BYU and the U and they're comparable. $750 for 3 credit class and $4,500 a year. AND!!! they have free books and shipping as long as you finish the class. Don't be fooled, it is kicking her butt, the classes are ligit and difficult. Good Luck!

Not so fast

While higher education is as nearly as entrenched religion, students themselves tend to be slow to demand innovation. Institutional higher education is the GM of 2040.

Lifelong Student

David Wiley's remarks are thought-provoking words of wisdom, but not prophetic. The concepts he discusses have been around for several years, but often dismissed as heresy. As a lifelong student, I admire Dr. Wiley for his critical thinking and for challenging conventional wisdom. I am inspired by the professor who says... we can do better.

Enter nameER in AF

Oh yeah. And power to the people!!! Education that can be had in Roosevelt or Rwanda is a great thing!!!!!! My daughter got 1910 on the SAT and should have one year done before she goes back to the US and gets her degree in Utah. Think of the savings of one year's rent, books andthe cost of all of the silly activities that she will love after she gets there. Universities will always exsist because I believe they are the playground for young adults to learn how to be out of the house and still be in a controled environment. I look for a mix of everything.


One of the concerns I have with going totally virtual is the lack of truly learning. University of Phoenix mentioned and other online for-profit schools are alluded to. Well UOP online classes are either 5 or 6 weeks long (depends if it is undergrad or grad) with very few if any lectures. I really do not believe the quality of education is there. Maybe for some, but still how do you really learn math, statistics or programming in that time....you cant? An entire degree based on weekly papers and very few tests, I wonder. UOP is by far the largest single user of Government student loans in the US. They give pay raises to those who sell (enroll) more student and those who retain more students. They and other schools like this are in it for the money, they have shareholders. With Dr. Wiley I don't see how education can be sustained if its all free. I don't think we live in the era of Star Trek yet where there is no money.


How will these virtual classrooms and schools overcome teh prestige factor? I've taken both online and in classroom courses, and by far there is more respect for in-classroom programs than internet courses. There is a reason why the University of Phoenix spends millions on ads promoting their online courses - they are trying to overcome this factor.


I thought this was very interesting observation. choice is good but as with everytthing else that is free $ you have to watch out for bad information. I can start blogging on ecconomics, but it's not going to be worth anything but what do you know?


The learning experience in a real classroom with other real students and an instructor, cannot be duplicated in any Virtual situation - i.e. by the student sitting at home or on a park bench looking at his laptop and text-messaging.
This BYU professor is off his rocker. As a BYU graduate I am appalled at his opinion. I believe he is wrong.

The Marriage Factor

This will ensure that BYU always exists, always. And to some, it is more important than the education.

Educational Compromises

I got a degree in the highly technical field of Electrical Engineering. Pretty much EVERY TOPIC (including language arts) that I thought was irrelevant to my job at one point, has come back to bite me in the butt.

As one commenter made the oft-repeated supposition that because everything they learned was of no use to him, I can only suppose he has a job that has no actual application or use to society. I find that every topic I SHOULD HAVE learned has eventually been something I wished I'd learned better.

I think all these virtual courses are a great supplement to education--I do not think they should supplant them, however.

One needs both human and self-directed learning, in order to succeed.

The simple human factor is important. I once sat in on an interview with a fellow who was very booksmart, and I asked him a question about what one does if the process he learned was broken. He was a PhD and couldn't answer the question--he was insistent if the process didn't work the way he'd been taught it couldn't be done. He wasn't hired.


Innovation will occur, but universities will not become irrelevant. Nice try.

BYU will be irrelevant by 2020

Wait, it already is.

Life Long Learning

The idea of distance learning is at the tipping point of mainstream acceptance. The old idea of college being something you did in your early 20's and then your formal education was done, is over. Life long learning needs to become our societal goal and the established norm.

The real value of this virtual approach is keeping current in emerging knowledge in all sorts of disciplines and contexts, NOT JUST higher education.

Individually this A la carte approach will equip workers to compete, and encourage them to stay engaged with their ongoing education. At a societal level, a flexible, adroit workforce is exactly what we need to be competitive in our rapidly accelerating world.

Open access democratizes knowledge for the masses, not just the privileged few. This is exciting stuff!


We learn from the teacher, the teacher learns from us and all students benifit from discussions and disagreements. Often when a person does not understand a topic it comes from an angle that the other students did not think of. Ergo, they didn't know they didn't understand. I believe in a mix of online lectures that are always open, and rich classroom experiences that are live.

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