US: GOP senator suggests swapping college instructors for videos

Sen. Ron Johnson called higher education a "cartel" and suggested colleges could cut the number of instructors and increase the use of online videos.

By: AP | Madison | Published: August 23, 2016 10:15:15 am
FILE - In this July 19, 2016 file photo, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who is running against Democratic Senate candidate Russ Feingold in the November election, waves to the delegates during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Feingold had harsh words for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, calling him unfit to be president and questioning how much longer his Republican opponent, Johnson, could support Trump. Johnson, who has said he supports but does not endorse Trump, said through a spokesman that Russia should "stay out of our elections." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) File Photo:  July 19, 2016, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

US Sen. Ron Johnson has an idea for making colleges cheaper — ditch the instructors and start playing online videos for students.

The Republican senator from Wisconsin floated the idea during a question-and-answer session Thursday in Milwaukee.

He called higher education a “cartel” and suggested colleges could cut the number of instructors and increase the use of online videos like Ken Burns’ 11½-hour documentary on the Civil War.

“Why do you have to keep paying different lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online,” Johnson said. “If you want to teach the Civil War across the country, are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers, who, you know, kind of know the subject? Or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns’ Civil War tape and having those teachers proctor based on that excellent video production already done? You keep duplicating that over all these different subject areas.”

“Everyone knows that the cost of college is out of control, and Ron’s point was clear — we need good teachers, but we also have not taken full advantage of technology to improve the quality and reduce the cost of education,” Johnson spokesman William Allison said in a statement Monday.

Johnson, of Oshkosh, is locked in a tight re-election battle with Democratic challenger Russ Feingold. Johnson ousted Feingold from the Senate in 2010, ending Feingold’s 18-year stay in the chamber.

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