Value per tuition dollar

Too few skills for too much money

Higher education is expensive. Even so, too many students graduate knowing too little, and able to do even less. Students don’t learn the skills that their universities promise.


  • Few professors know how to teach well. They have Ph.D.s in biology, accounting, etc. However, few doctoral programs have even one course on teaching.
  • Professors generally are not rewarded for teaching well. They’re rewarded for publishing in academic journals, not improving students’ lives.
  • Universities don’t measure teaching or learning very well.
  • Many universities invest little in improving teaching.

This situation will not change within the next decade or two. Universities are big, inflexible organizations. Think that a university president can just tell faculty what to do? Fuggedaboudit.

CyberCourse: more skills for the money

CyberCourse – Cyco for short – helps students learn skills, one course at a time. Cyco takes advantage of a few things.

  • Learning research. We know a lot about student learning. We just don’t use that information.
  • Professors dedicated to teaching. A few are willing to learn about learning, and create good course material. Let’s say one professor in twenty.
  • Academic freedom. Nineteen of twenty professors won’t learn about learning. They know they won’t be rewarded for it. Even so, the nineteen in twenty are free to use the content made by the one in twenty.
  • Technology. It’s not easy doing what learning research says we should. For example, every student should to practical exercises, with each one graded by a person. That takes a lot of time. However, grading can be done cheaply and at scale, if we have efficient grading workflows.

Here’s how Cyco works. A professor (or team) in computer science, accounting, etc., learns about learning, with the help of the Cyco wiki and its community. The professor uses open source Cyco software to write course content with many embedded exercises. These Cyco courses replace textbooks.

Students read the content and do the exercises. They submit their work online. Graders evaluate it, using “clickable rubrics” created by the author(s). Students and their instructors get detailed feedback about every exercise. Ideally, students get a chance to correct their mistakes and resubmit.

The graders need not be professors; it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in computer science to grade intro programming assignments. Graders just need basic skills in the field (math, chemistry, whatever).

In class, professors help students with their work, one-on-one. No lectures. Instead, professors do what they’re good at: problem solving in their fields. They need not be learning experts. Students get chocolatey learning goodness baked into their courses by the one in twenty, that is, the course authors.

All of this is practical now (well, once the software is more stable, and the community grows).

The bottom line: students get more value for their money and time.

Like what you see? Take a look at what you can do.