What campuses can learn from online teaching

October 8, 2012

EdX announcement (credit: MIT)

Also see the three related posts today (below). — Ed.

Higher education is at a crossroads not seen since the introduction of the printing press, said MIT president L. Rafael Reif* in The Wall Street Journal.

“Residential education’s long-simmering financial problem is reaching a crisis point,” he said. “At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other campuses, the upheaval today is coming from the technological change posed by online education.”

He pointed out that Coursera, edX, Udacity and other online-learning platforms are beginning to offer the teaching of great universities at low or no cost. Universities have also developed technology that lets them actually teach in an interactive format designed specifically for online learning, such as MIT’s MITx.

“Online education holds the key to making residential education better and less expensive even as it promises to offer education to many millions more people. … Given its possible scale, online education may improve the financial model of residential education.

“If a university’s courses can be offered online for small fees to people around the world, we might arrive at a sweet spot where high numbers of online learners are getting extremely good value for their fees, and the university that creates the content is using those fees to serve the mission of the university as a whole — part of which is to make education, on and off campus, affordable.”

*According to an MIT announcement, Reif led the design and implementation of the strategy that allowed MIT to weather the global financial crisis; drove the growth of MIT’s global strategy; led the development of MITx, the Institute’s new initiative in online learning; and led MIT’s role in the formation of edX, the partnership between MIT and Harvard University that builds on MITx and that aims to enrich residential education while bringing online learning to great numbers of people around the world.