James V. Shuls
My first PhD-level course at the University of Arkansas was math for economic analysis. I entered the course with two degrees in elementary education, but the highest math course I had taken was college algebra for educators. As you can imagine, I was not prepared for the course.

I spent hours studying content that it was assumed an econ PhD student would already know and regularly received help from classmates. The most help, however, came from a former hedge fund analyst and professors at MIT. While I completed my math for economic analysis course, I also watched MIT lectures on linear algebra. I visited Khan Academy regularly to learn how to use the chain rule or product rule when finding derivatives. The videos were more effective in teaching me than my professor, because I could pause the videos, re-watch them, and practice as they played. I am sure the professor would have been quite frustrated if I demanded that he repeat what he said as much as I replayed those videos.

Recently, one of the founders of Coursera, a free online program that delivers free, high-quality college level courses to people around the world, gave a TED Talk on the ability of technology to reinvent how we deliver education (see also Salman Khan’s TED Talk).

High-quality education programs are increasingly being provided for free. There is a real opportunity for schools, especially K-12 schools, to see tremendous benefits from these programs. Imagine a high school student taking introduction to finance, while the student at the computer next to him or her takes Greek and Roman mythology. The technology is available, so what is stopping us from utilizing the power of technology to change how we educate students? Tradition and government regulation.

About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls
Distinguished Fellow of Education Policy

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.