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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
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,
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
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
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,
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
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
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
"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
[tatterdemalion, Apr 12 2013]
Everything bad is good for you
[JesusHChrist, Apr 13 2013]
||Online services such as Khan Academy are a much better approach.
||Surely this is just the OU with ads? Also outmoded, i would think.
||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.
||Totally baked in UK by The Open University.
||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.
||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.
||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)?
||Advertisers would have to be convinced that their
advertising dollars will generate sales.
||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.
||//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.
||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
||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.
||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
||//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
||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.
||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.