Thoughts on economics and liberty

80 per cent of the world’s lecturers are not needed any longer

The world of education is due for an intensive overhaul. The current model where low quality lecturers individually tutor small groups of students is due for a total revamp.

With the coming of high speed internet, all we need is ONE good lecturer in economics in the entire world, ONE good lecturer in science, and so on. And we are done. All others can be asked do something more productive with their time. (Of course, that is a simplification; maybe we need two lecturers each, not just one.) 

That one lecturer's lectures can be posted on youtube (or somewhere) and listened to by students throughout the world. They then don't need to attend mediocre lectures. 

All that is needed, after that, is lower quality (and therefore lower paid) tutors who will grade students' assignments. That way one lecturer could teach 2 million students, assisted by 10,000 tutors, instead of having 10,000 lecturers.

We will still need high end professors to teach and supervise doctoral  students, and school teachers to  teach school kids (who need to be personally supervised). 

But a middle layer – of ordinary lecturers (perhaps 80% of them) – can now be given the pink slip.

Consider the Khan Academy. There is no reason why it can't provide college level education as well, thus replacing most lecturers across the world. 

Lecture notes can be placed online as well (already happening at MIT).

The world must become more productive. Old models are no longer relevant.

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7 thoughts on “80 per cent of the world’s lecturers are not needed any longer
  1. govind

    you are partially right as long as there is no interaction the students may not be attentive. Your  theory is right only to the serious students but not to the average , and middle class students   , 

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Good point, Govind. But even less serious students can benefit from having high quality video lectures to watch at their leisure. Further, the lower cost of such video lectures will mean that more students can take a higher degree.

    On balance, the quality of education should go up even as the cost of education declines.


  3. govind

    sir, thanks for writing
    I am a physics lecturer and getting retired in this month.
    My experience says that you are right in your arguments. I have experimented in my college with vedio lessons. Most of the students went on gossip because my attention was on the screen and later when i have taken a feed back that they dont understand the formal English even because they are basically Hindi  mother tongue students.
    That is the reason i have placed my argument before you. if your argument is taken seriously then what happens to these students.

  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Govind

    Your point about language is important “they dont understand the formal English”. A good video lecture will need to be tailored to the audience and therefore will need to explain in simple English to those whose mother tongue is Hindu. The point being that the video should be as good as the lectures you gave personally to the students, else we are not going to get the improvement I’m referring about.

    The second point is distraction. If students are going to gossip, then of course this won’t work. I actually didn’t have classroom lectures in mind. In my view, a serious college student should be able to listen to lectures at home, do the assignments, and come to college only for tutorials, where group teaching (new methods have been discovered in this regard, with students teaching themselves) can be used – at least to an extent. Of course there will need to be an overall academic supervisor, so I’m only suggesting that 80% of the lecturers can be downsized. About 20% of them will be needed to supervise the tutors and to provide over-arching guidance to students.

    Even if this can’t be used effectively in the intial stages, by making use of good video lectures, the overall quality of education should go up.

    Anyway, this was just a thought, and will need more work from educational institutions. I won’t be surprised to hear that this is already happening in many innovative universities.


  5. Ashvini Kumar

    Although its fair to say that through online lectures and notes we can reach to more number of students without having professor but these online courses and notes don’t fulfill the requirement of personalized suggestion and comments to a student by his/her teacher.

    So it is good to use latest technology but still no are not good alternative of a living real teacher who observe student’s specific problems and gave them solution.

  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    That is why you need good tutors, with far lower skills. Plus wider reading/listening to different lectures.


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