Online university life: accept or decline?

By Meagan Meiklejohn

With next year’s rising tuition plaguing the wallets of University of Calgary students, the idea of a tuitionless university seems only a far off dream. However, an ambitious entrepreneur from Israel intends to make this dream a reality in the coming future.

University of the People, he imagines, will become the first global, tuition-free university, operating similarly to internet-based universities today. Adopting many traditional strategies for educating students, University of the People will provide online study communities, weekly discussion topics, homework assignments and exams. Students will be required to pay a $15-$50 enrolment fee and $10-$100 for exams depending upon their country’s financial stability. Aside from that, their future really is only a click away.

Taking this into consideration, along with our current belt-tightening in response to the plummeting worldwide economy, supporters of our technological era welcome this mass-innovation with acceptance clicks. After all, technology is the wave of the future. As text and online messaging have swiftly taken the place of face-to-face interaction, it was only a matter of time before communication and knowledge accessibility advanced to the next level. Eliminating all physical presence in the classroom and lecture hall, both professors and students are invited to teach and be taught from the comfort of their own homes.

While lounging around in pyjamas, listening to music and texting as we watch reruns of Friends may sound like a steal of a deal, it seems virtually unrealistic that students would muster up the motivation to buckle down and earn a degree. Without an atmosphere geared towards learning and excelling in one’s chosen field, students are actually placing more responsibility upon themselves to access any resources they might need. These include learning centres, such as for writing or second languages, support and help services, such as the Women’s Centre, hands on experience, such as at the Gauntlet or NUTV and even the library.

In addition, physically being in a university subjects you to a world of new experiences and opportunities. Aside from academic aids, there are leadership opportunities, clubs, recreational facilities and sport teams where students can practice and perfect the skills they learn for everyday life– not to mention countless forms of entertainment such as presentations, drama events, concerts and parties. With the opportunity to work, interact or just hang out with a variety of people from different backgrounds, students can enrich their lives, expand their knowledge and find out who they are and what they want to be. All of which cannot be done alone by jailing oneself at a chair and staring at a computer screen.

Although an online university would benefit those who are ill, injured or otherwise unable to attend school, tuition cost should not be the deal breaker that confines students to an online education. There is more to university than going to class and coming home– there is university life. Attending university is our first chance to start living our lives the way we want to. For many, this means leaving home and discovering a world unlike the one we’ve grown up in. Discarding our parents’ rules and the friends we’ve been dealt based on our grade-school days, we can do what we want, when we want and go where we want with whom we want. Finally, we are able to make our own decisions based on our own judgment, take credit for our successes and claim full responsibility for our mistakes. You may have to buy your way into school, but you can’t put a price on the experience you get out of it.

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