A new for-profit start-up university is trying to compete with Ivy League schools and is charging about half the tuition. The Minerva Project has just opened its first class in a small, selective, online seminar environment that requires students to be engaged and participating the whole time. It’s founders say they are using the science of learning to strip the college experience down to its core — taking away things like a campus, sports and lectures — in order to focus solely on learning. It’s a controversial, in-your-face model still at the earliest stages of experimentation. In his thorough Atlantic article Graeme Wood explores Minerva’s model and asks some important questions:
“On the other hand, no one yet knows whether reducing a university to a smooth-running pedagogical machine will continue to allow scholarship to thrive—or whether it will simply put universities out of business, replace scholar-teachers with just teachers, and retard a whole generation of research. At any great university, there are faculty who are terrible at teaching but whose work drives their field forward with greater momentum than the research of their classroom-competent colleagues. Will there be a place for such people at Minerva—or anywhere, if Minerva succeeds?”
A brash tech entrepreneur thinks he can reinvent higher education by stripping it down to its essence, eliminating lectures and tenure along with football games, ivy-covered buildings, and research libraries. What if he’s right?