GOP senator suggests swapping college instructors for videos

Aug 22, 2016

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has suggested that college could be made cheaper by ditching the instructors and using online videos to teach students, instead

MADISON, Wis. — U.S. 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.