EPIC 2020 Prophesies the Death of Universities

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EPIC 2020, the movie, is a dramatization of the technology trends that in the remainder of this decade will eliminate college tuition and degrees. New innovative business models in online learning will generate revenues from the top 1% of students that enable the education of the rest of the world for free. Every student in the world with internet access will be able to be taught by the world’s best professors.

EPIC 2020, a ten-minute free movie, was released to the public today on the epic2020.org web site. EPIC 2020 presents a prophetic dramatization of the death of the traditional higher education system by the end of the decade. EPIC 2020 a creative commons property follows in the footsteps of EPIC 2014 that was released in 2004 and predicted the demise of the print newspaper industry. EPIC 2020 describes the technological forces that are intersecting with major industry forces to provide online courses by the best professors in the world supported by the best academic technology scaled to where a single professor can educate every student in the world in a given subject. EPIC 2020 identifies new business models that turn the current academic business model of tuition on its head as well as new concepts in defining and documenting skills that render degrees obsolete.

Recently released numbers from the federal government reveal that student debt in the United States now exceeds one trillion dollars, more than credit card debt or car loans. Only slightly more than half of students who start college will graduate within six years, with an average student debt of $25,000. The other half, who do not graduate, have less debt but no degree. Tuition at most universities is increasing at twice the rate of inflation. Higher education has not achieved any significant improvement in productivity in a hundred years. An educational consumer revolt is in the making.

Early in 2012 respected universities such as Stanford, MIT and Harvard have established new well-funded, independent operations to design, develop and deliver their courses online to the world for free. Educational content presentation is moving from a craft to a commodity model. Organizations such as the Khan Academy are creating content, exercise, and assessment systems that are unequaled by any traditional organization and all are provided for free and are infinitely scalable. Other organizations such as Mozilla are working with industry groups to create badges that require the demonstration of skills required for a specific position or job. Where degrees represent one point in time, accomplishment badges will document a life-long growth of skills and experience.

Two new business models have the potential to eliminate tuition as a concept by the end of the decade. An employment agency model, being pioneered by Udacity, a spin out from Stanford University represents the first model. Udacity currently offers free computer science courses on a worldwide basis through which they identify and connect the top 1% of the students in the world to the best companies in the world for a standard personnel recruiter fee. This approach will easily generate enough funding to educate the rest of the world for free. The second model represented by MITx and being pioneered by edX, a partnership of MIT and Harvard, provides courses with no prerequisites free to the world. Only after a student has demonstrated mastery of the course need they decide if they want to pay a modest fee for a certification. A fee as low as $100 when multiplied by 100,000 generates $10 million. EdX’s goal is to educate a billion people.

EPIC 2020 was written and narrated by Bill Sams, a Commissioner on the eTech Ohio Commission and an Executive in Residence with the College of Business at Ohio University. Mr. Sams was an executive in semiconductor and software companies in Silicon Valley for 25 years and is an advocate of applying the concepts of Moore’s Law* to education.

For additional information contact Bill Sams, samsw(at)ohio(dot)edu, 740-591-7158.

*Moore’s Law refers to the prediction that computing hardware capability would double every two years, resulting in exponential growth.

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Bill Sams

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