Could Traditional Education Be a Thing of the Past? Bill Gates Thinks So

According to Bill Gates, chairman and cofounder of Microsoft, technology will soon make place-based colleges obsolete. At a recent conference, Gates announced his belief that place-based colleges are too expensive and exclusive for every student to get a proper education and that in roughly five years they will become five times less important than they are today. Gates joked that attending a physical college does have its advantages, though: parties.

Technology in education is a trend that has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. With students taking notes on personal laptops, professors uploading class notes to the web, and classrooms retrofitted with interactive white boards, it’s safe to say that the technology craze has found a niche specifically in higher education. But Gates believes that every worthwhile or important lecture will soon be available online for those students self-motivated enough to find and study them. The increased usage of the Web can provide a larger number of students with greater access to higher education material at substantially lower costs. According to Gates, only technology can lower the exorbitant cost of higher education, which can run a single student around $50,000 per year or $200,000 for four years.

Today, 44 percent of college students reportedly spend roughly 15 hours per week on the Internet and 75 percent have their own laptops. University professors are even joining the technology craze. Many upload students’ grades, homework assignments and class syllabi to schools’ private websites for students to access at their convenience. Professors can also provide online bulletin boards, videos, and chat rooms to facilitate group discussion and learning. These factors, coupled with the continued promulgation of the Internet and the increasing intelligence of technological devices, are laying the foundation for an all-technology-based higher education system.

Though Gates states that technology is reducing the need for place-based colleges and universities, he believes the opposite is true for elementary and secondary schools. While promoting the expansion of technology in charter and progressive schools in the United States, Gates said those students should be immersed in their educational environments for 80 percent of the waking hours. Whether this computer whiz is right or not, there is no denying that technology has become rooted in all levels of the education system and will only continue to grow in importance. Only time will tell if Bill Gates is right about the future of place-based education.

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