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Television University

For profit educational television/online courses
  [vote for,

Originally proposed this idea in 1992 (in another forum). Brought it up again in 2004 (again, in another forum), then again in 2012:

For-profit education: WTVU/KTVU

A broadcast television station, airing accredited courses in a variety of degree programs. The broadcast facility is funded by commercial advertising, just like any other station. Viewers can watch and videotape courses- regular testing and/or "homework," via fax, mail, or email, is charged a small fee for grading. Final exams would be administered at rented locations, again for a relatively small fee.

This project requires the purchase of a broadcast television station, a startup budget to pay salaries the first year or so, and 8,700 hours (approximately) of orignial educational programming.

I believe degree courses in several areas could be offered- math, physics, engineering, history, literature, etc.

The targeted audience are those who are not computer-savvy, or may not have access to broadband, or may not have any internet access. Televisions are cheap and almost universal, computers are still not found in most homes.

Television University is an anti-elitist concept.

We are, in fact, already being educated by television, in the guise of entertainment. We are bombarded by bad science, improper ethics, inappropriate behavior- but no one complains that "Seinfeld" or "Friends" or "NYPD Blue" has created any conflict of interest.

I'm proposing that bad, misleading information be replaced with good, accurate information, and that viewing TV be transformed into something constructive. Turning a profit will insure a continuing private investment, rather than existing at the whim of political hacks.

The hope would be that the programming would be picked up by a satellite service, once the concept has proved itself to investors to be profitable. Actually, the programming could be started as a cable-access channel operating 24/7/365. I would have suggested this first, but the real stumbling block is obtaining the 8,700 hours of original college-level programming, and having the courses and degrees accredited.

A few years ago, I went so far as to make out a programming schedule, having 13-week semesters, 4 semesters a year, so that a BS or BA degree could be earned in two years (of very intense, condensed study). I think I calculated I could schedule 20 or so possible degree programs running simultaneously- thus the name Television University. Some material would be run at odd hours, but that's what VCRs are for.

Television is the most powerful communications technology in human history, yet in its present form it's being used to make people stupid. I propose Television University, a television channel that broadcasts college course material 24/7, to make people smarter. Degree courses would be offered in Aptitude/Essential Skills (math, language skills- reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling, problem solving), Management, Industry Specific Knowledge (specific industries- automotive, aerospace, finance, health, etc), Office Skills, Computer Software and IT, Languages and Communication, History, Psychology, Philosophy, etc.

Course material would be presented in traditional broadcast format with commercial advertising breaks: 10 minutes of advertising per hour of programming. Advertising would be appropriate to the course material, and advertising revenues would be used to support the programming, rather than charging tuition.

The hook is that, after watching the course material, the viewer/student pays a fee to take a proctored test for course credits, which add up to an accredited degree in the degree program studied. Some courses will require material to be submitted, such as term papers or other materials; these would be submitted via mail, email, or fax, graded for a fee by a qualified instructor or advisor, and credits issued toward the appropriate degree.

My original idea would have allowed viewers to tape the material with a VCR for convenient viewing later, but "On Demand" would make material available at any time, but would have to include advertising (the price you pay for free education).

Now, I just need about 8,700 hours of original educational programming...

Originally, back in the '90s, I had thought to use a traditional broadcast TV station. VCRs were high tech at the time, but technology has progressed to the point that cable and/or satellite TV is fairly common and reasonable in cost for most people. Whatever the medium, the idea is to have tuition costs paid for by advertising, having students pay only for taking exams and having assignments graded.

Brainbench.com offers something similar, in the form of a specialized learning program and fee- based examinations for certifications. My proposal goes a bit beyond in offering accredited degree programs.

Television is a powerful educational tool. Currently it educates people to be mindless, gullible consumers, and provides cheap, shallow answers to very complex questions.

whlanteigne, Apr 12 2013

Open University http://en.wikipedia...iki/Open_University
"Course-based television broadcasts by the BBC, which started on 3 January 1971, ceased on 15 December 2006." [spidermother, Apr 12 2013]

University of the Air http://en.wikipedia...Air_%28TV_series%29
[tatterdemalion, Apr 12 2013]

Everything bad is good for you http://en.wikipedia...Bad_Is_Good_for_You
[JesusHChrist, Apr 13 2013]


       Online services such as Khan Academy are a much better approach.
tatterdemalion, Apr 12 2013

       Surely this is just the OU with ads? Also outmoded, i would think.
nineteenthly, Apr 13 2013

       Perhaps dated technologically, because I made the original proposal in 1992, with broadcast TV and VCRs in mind, but I believe the core idea, advertising- supported tuition, is still valid.
whlanteigne, Apr 13 2013

       Totally baked in UK by The Open University.
xenzag, Apr 13 2013

       Why advertising-supported though? If the OU can just do it via tax, why introduce the risk of a potential bias through advertising? The tuition fee system may be screwed up now, but before a certain woman did the dirty on us there was no problem there. I'm not against advertising as such - i use it myself - and government funding would also introduce a bias, but it just seems odd to have that requirement.   

       In any case, it just is the OU.
nineteenthly, Apr 13 2013

       The advertising-supported tuition makes it affordable for students, without increasing the tax burden. Sponsors would know what topic the viewers are interested in, due to the subject matter of the course, and advertise appropriate merchandise.
whlanteigne, Apr 13 2013

       Hmm. Well, the OU currently charges a few thousand pounds - much cheaper than an attendance university, but not cheap.   

       So there is a valid model for using advertising revenue to subsidise education.   

       On the other hand, how much advertising revenue would be gotten? If we assume (generously) that the OU is charging only at a viable level, £5000 is an awful lot to recoup through advertising.   

       Assume that the same advertising is inserted into the course material for 10,000 students (a high number, but possible for a popular course). Would you, as an advertiser, be prepared to spend £10 million to reach that audience? Or even £100K (if 100 different advertisers are represented)?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 13 2013

       Advertisers would have to be convinced that their advertising dollars will generate sales.
whlanteigne, Apr 13 2013

       There is of course a way of reducing the price of most things which people seem to dislike, which is for people to offer it for free, i.e. to give lectures and prepare course materials and the like without asking for money. In fact, there are course materials out there, such as those of MIT, which are already offered for free. The amount of revenue generated by advertising wouldn't be enough and would, like state funding, introduce bias through the desire to avoid biting the hand that feeds one. So in fact this idea has the merit of alerting me to the probable bias of state-funded higher education due to it being funded by the government as well as the possibility of bias from advertising.   

       There would of course also be bias from free education because of the kinds of people able to offer free services, e.g. people who are rich enough not to worry about being paid or people trying to get into a field by initially offering their services for free. So in fact, nothing works and we're all doomed, as usual.
nineteenthly, Apr 14 2013

       //Advertisers would have to be convinced that their advertising dollars will generate sales//   

       Yes but, if the OU costs are not vastly inflated, that means the advertisers will have to pay £5000 for every person they reach. I don't know how advertising works, but £5000 per advertisee seems to be three orders of magnitude out.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 14 2013

       It would be quite a bit less per student. The potential market is in the millions worldwide, perhaps tens of millions, and the costs don't increase that much per viewer; the initial expense is in the acquiring of the course material, which wouldn't need to be updated frequently, and then maintenance costs for the website server (assuming the material is distributed via streaming video).   

       If done as a cable TV channel, the maintenance costs for running the videos would be higher but again be a fixed monthly cost, regardless the number of viewers.   

       Assignments would be graded on a fee basis, as would the proctored final exams.   

       Structured like a correspondence course, but with advertising paying the tuition fee.
whlanteigne, Apr 14 2013

       1. People would cheat like mad on the exams. 2. The point of university is to weed out those who do not have the disposable income to forgo working full time.
bungston, Apr 14 2013

       //People would cheat like mad on the exams.//   

       That's why the exams would be proctored.   

       //The point of university is to weed out those who do not have the disposable income to forgo working full time//   

       Yes, exactly.
whlanteigne, Apr 14 2013

       For insomnia.
pashute, Apr 15 2013

       How do you proctor a person taking an exam at a remote location? Or do you require them to show up as with other standardized tests? Those tests cost big bucks the way they are done now.
bungston, Apr 15 2013

       I think people are only likely to cheat on exams if they're stupid. I have a thing about this as it happens. If you have enough faith in the system to think exams are a good way of measuring prowess in a given subject and that the subject is either worthwhile in itself or germane to your goal, and you are emotionally invested in that goal, for instance if you actually want to be good at what you do, cheating would be absurd. You're not going to want to be bad at your goal, and you're not going to want to do something you don't really want to do a priori, and if you're studying for the love of it, it makes no sense anyway. Therefore, the only people who cheat at exams either have no faith in the system anyway or are, to be blunt, stupid, in the sense of being intellectually lazy (not trying to insult people with organic brain dysfunction here). Successful cheating is eventually its own punishment.   

       As it happens, there's a well-recognised way of invigilating exams at a distance. You just get a solicitor to do it.
nineteenthly, Apr 15 2013


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