EconLog reader Alan Shields sent me some interesting comments on my observation that the best education in the world is already free.  Reprinted with Alan’s permission:

I’ve been thinking about your thought experiment of “who would choose
to take a course for no credit”. Let’s turn the problem around a bit:
if one were offered two years of free schooling on the restriction
that they would receive no credit for courses, no endorsement of
skills, and no recommendation from the teacher, what courses would one
take to best increase one’s earnings? Programming courses came to mind
(I am a programmer), but even there I found more good out of books and
experience than courses. Materials already available are sufficient.
My second thought was sculpture, craftwork such as sewing and design,
auto repair (I know auto repair was extremely popular at the community
college I attended when young). While these courses may not have the
bang of a STEM degree, they still provide usable skill without

So this is where it’s interesting: all of those crafts already have an
enormous amount of material online. My wife is a crochet fan and she
learned from YouTube videos which only came out in the past two years
– and she’s repeatedly heard from older crocheters that the YouTube
videos are vastly superior to all of the teaching books and supplies
available before. I am unsure as to the quality of teaching in auto
repair and plumbing, but I’ve heard of some home repair how-to
projects. Just recently I learned how to use a strap wrench from an
online video.

My theory is that we can already see where the most valuable
uncredited courses are because the coursework is already being
aggressively covered by online courses provided for free. I think it’s
no coincidence that these courses are in fields that do not require
credentials (plumbing may be regulated, but I don’t think being an
apartment handyman or manager is regulated).

Thank you for your time,

Alan Shields

Is Alan right?  Other suggestions?