Google University – Approaching Beta?

The notion of a Google University is not a new one, but recent interest among some universities to embrace the use of YouTube for hosting instructional content has brought things into a slightly different focus for me.

UC Berkeley was the first to jump in and set up a YouTube channel for distributing content, and they have recently been joined by MIT, USC, Purdue, Carnegie Mellon, Texas Tech and Auburn. More are sure to follow. On the surface this seems like a great way of sharing learning resources as well as a marketing tool for colleges and universities to show a different web presence…participating in some of that YouTube love.

Another interesting wrinkle here is that it has not been made transparent by YouTube just how other interested universities might become involved in offering their own YouTube channels. The Chronicle recently reported that calls to the YouTube brass about gaining additional information about how to get involved in YouTubeU have gone unanswered. Club membership seems to be a bit restricted at this point, but why all the interest? Perhaps exclusivity is fueling the the desire to join…

Google, with its vast resources, really seems on the verge here of being able to open up Google University. And if McDonald’s can grant GEDs, it seems quite conceivable that a GU could offer some pretty compelling degree programs. It could provide its students with unlimited web-based access to some of the most amazing library collections in the world (Stanford, University of Michigan, Princeton, Oxford, Harvard, Cornell….etc.), a suite of web-based productivity and learning tools (Gmail, Calendar, Pages, Docs, blogs, Maps, Reader…and not to mention Search) and now an emerging collection of full video recordings of courses and lectures from some prestigious universities. Wow!

It is not difficult to imagine or envision a scenario where you could enroll for a Google Course. Courses could draw upon the vast collection of resources, pulling and re-assembling the best learning content to suit the needs of individual learners. The idea of having an intelligent tutor embedded in the web browser that is evaluating decisions, links, and responses to learning content…in real-time…and serving up a multimedia buffet of resources that seemed to be just in time to support that next cognitive step. In such an environment the learner could always remain in that zone of proximal development. Hmmm…a long shot? Maybe.

What might such an arrangement mean for traditional notions of courses? Degree programs? Institutions of higher education? For learning?

Would such an environment be desirable?