I was reading yesterday in Fast Company’s June 2009 issue, on their cover story, The 100 Most Creative People In Business, when I came across #37 – Shai Reshef. Reshef is the founder of University of the People (U.P.?), who’s ostensible aim is to level the educational playing field for those for whom higher education is financially out of reach. Tuition at University of the People is free (aside from registration and testing fees), the professors volunteers’, and the course-work open-source. Whoa!? Did you get that? An open-source education!?
The blurb from the article states that, “Reshef hopes his university will serve as a global model for how to educate a new generation.” That’s a pretty sweeping statement, and one that almost caused me to recoil in horror. The thought of succeeding generations educated on open source curriculums springs to my mind associations of a Wikipedia-like experience of learning. Is it possible that whole generations could be educated not on the bedrock of Isaac Newton (”standing on the shoulders of giants”), but on the shifting sands of www.isaacnewton-wiki.com ?
The term ‘open source’ is a familiar one to the arena of software development, and has worked rather exceptionally well in that field. But in academia, where the use and citation of legitimate source material in research and writing for the sake of veracity and academic integrity is of utmost importance, how would such research be of value when supported by the work of Joe-Bob Smith, et al..? … er… Joe-Bob Smith, aka Phillip Morzekowski, University of the People, Class of 2011.
All joking aside, though I havn’t looked at Shai Reshef’s brainchild at any length or depth yet, the cursory treatment of it I saw put up some definite initial cautionary flags for me. If you have any thoughts on this or can further educate me (pun intended) on the virtues of Reshef’s U.P., please post a comment!