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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Online Onslaught


via Wikimedia Commons

In an earlier post I off-handedly mentioned my belief that sometime in the future students would no longer matriculate at individual universities, but rather pick-and-choose coursework from an array of nationwide (indeed worldwide) digital offerings from the best teachers possible. I don't know how the exact details of grades, credits, degrees etc. will work out, but I'm sure it's do-able.
Anyway, my idea was for the distant future… but funny how rapidly the future is hurtling towards us. The following NY Times piece reports on a new collaboration between Harvard and M.I.T. to offer free non-credit courses over the Web, and of course a good many other colleges are doing the same as well (and other colleges already offer for-credit/degree courses). Last month the Times reported on another outstanding consortium of schools offering a similar online venture called "Coursera" (the Harvard/MIT project, btw, is called "edX"). I think it is clear the direction this is all going. The only question is how fast?...

http://tinyurl.com/87eoujw

There are no doubt benefits to be derived from the social and other interactions that are aspects of participation on an actual physical campus... but for generations being raised on Facebook, Twitter, and similar digital social platforms, even those benefits are probably fading into obsolescence. As that great teacher from the 60's told us ;-), the times they are a changin'!

Lastly, Keith Devlin also touches upon this whole subject at some length (and with his usual thoughtfulness) in his latest "Devlin's Angle" column here:

http://devlinsangle.blogspot.com/2012/05/math-mooc-coming-this-fall.html

The first lines from the piece:
"Higher education as we know it just ended. Exactly what will take its place is not at all clear. All that can be said with certainty is that within a few short years the higher education landscape will look very different."
 (Devlin will be doing his own 5-week online course from Stanford, starting in October.)
ADDENDUM: Devlin has now started a separate blog just to focus on this subject:

http://mooctalk.org/

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